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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 2, 2008

What I'm reading: Puakea Nogelmeier, Assistant professor of Hawaiian language

By Christine Thomas
Special to the Advertiser

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Puakea Nogelmeier, Assistant professor of Hawaiian language, UH-Manoa; Hawaiian language translator.

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What are you reading?

Right now I'm reading the accounts of the riots that followed Kalakaua's 1874 election in the Hawaiian-language newspapers (online at www.nupepa.org). I'm also reading (Hawaiian historian Ralph) Kuykendall because I'm teaching a course that's kingdom history he has so much information in one place that is not perfectly assembled but is grandly assembled. The more fun one is I'm re-reading "The Epic Tale of Hi'iakaikapoliopele." I haven't looked at it for six months, and it's made a splash, and there are a lot of groups that want to discuss the book with me, so I need to stay fresh. And then just for a darned good time I'm reading Witi Ihimaera's "The Dream Swimmer," which is the followup to "The Matriarch." It's in a Maori setting and it's just very good, dark, mysterious family stuff.

What keeps you reading Ihimaera?

This is the fifth book of his I've read. He's entwining real history with drama. The dramatization of history and personalization of history to me is really powerful, and his data is correct. I don't like literature that's simply flight and fancy I like it grounded in something real, and then make it an entertaining, engaging, flavorful package.

Does reading help you create an accurate but entertaining package when translating, as with "Hi'iakaikapoliopele"?

It frames what I try to do. And the group that I work with, they are all readers, they are all working on a broad base themselves, so we share a lot of that enjoyment and appreciation. We're trying to counteract a century of bad, mechanical translation and offer up something that's more productive and more resonant just simply more connected.