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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, September 30, 2007

What I'm reading: Maile Meyer

By Christine Thomas

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Maile Meyer, founder, Native Books.

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What are you reading?

"The Epic Tale of Hi'iakaikapoliopele," the English translation of a version originally printed in a Hawaiian-language newspaper in 1905. It's an amazing epic of the travels of Hi'iaka on an errand for her sister Pele, to fetch Pele's beloved Lohi'au from Kaua'i.

What do you like about it?

Reading this material is giving me all kinds of insight into Hawaiian knowledge winds, rains, place names, healing plants, chants, protocols. It's absolutely amazing. The story is a classic totally engaging, full of every kind of intrigue a coming into power for Hi'iaka, typically cast as Pele's "little sister." I'm enjoying every page. I found out from its translator, Puakea Nogelmeier, that this 500-page book is just scratching the surface of the over-five-million pages available in Hawaiian-language newspapers published at the turn of the century. It's mind-boggling; we have no idea what we don't know. ... Reconnecting to all that Hawaiian knowledge through translations is like turning the lights on again for all of us.

Does the re-emergence of this tale give you new ideas about cultural experiences to deliver at Native Books?

It's interesting because we just finished renovating a quarter of the store. ... We put a studio in so we can learn about how to make our own things again feather lei, cultural products. So reading this book translates into we have to learn our own things again. ... It's where we are and who we are and where we live I think this is all tied together, learning more about the things that are unique to Hawai'i and not being afraid to adopt them no matter who you are, because it's the right thing to do. ...