Mahalo nui loa – Hawaiian for thank you very much – to the dozens of book groups I’ve spoken with from around the country that have picked Lost Kingdom as their monthly or quarterly read. I’ve met some of these groups in person and have skyped with some and phoned in to others. It’s been a wonderful experience and now that Lost Kingdom is just out in paperback, I hope to meet with even more groups (including a wonderful group in Kentfield, Ca. that invited me to join them to discuss the book over a feast of kalua pig, poi, and coconut layer cake — so ono!)
I’m truly grateful to all of you – from Liz Epstein’s Literary Masters groups (10 book groups in the San Francisco Bay Area) to the marvelous ladies of the Hawaiian Historical Society, to the book group that met in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights and included descendants of the Dillingham family as well as an astonishing pineapple cake, to Catherine Hartman’s lovely group of Stanford alum and other book-loving friends in Chicago to Jason Poole (The Accidental Hawaiian Crooner) who also organizes a reading group in Pittsburgh. I’m especially grateful to Julie Robinson of Literary Affairs, who organizes book events and moderates book groups in Beverly Hills and the Los Angeles area, for choosing Lost Kingdom as one of her recommended reads.
Here are some questions to discuss on Lost Kingdom that come from Liz Epstein at Literary Masters and adapted by Beth Baily Gates, who’s been running the Fairfax Public Library’s book group for nearly a decade. Hope they’re helpful and if you have other questions, I’d be delighted to skype or phone into your book group for a chat if my schedule permits: here’s the link to request me.
Points to Ponder for Lost Kingdom
- Whose story is Lost Kingdom and who should be telling it? Do you think Julia Flynn Siler, a mainland writer, does a good job of showing all sides of this story about nineteenth century Hawaii? Do you think it is an important story?
- Is there a hero/heroine or villain/villainess in this story?
- How do you feel about Hawai’i’s last ruling queen, Lili’uokalani? Could she have done anything to alter the course of historical events? Should she have? Do you consider her a tragic figure?
- How responsible was King David Kalakaua for the course of events?
- How do you feel about the way the United States handled the annexation of Hawaii? Grover Cleveland claimed “Hawaii is ours…as I contemplate the means used to complete the outrage, I am ashamed of the whole affair.” Do you agree/ disagree with him?
- How do you feel about the way the Hawaiians handled the annexation of Hawaii? Did you get a good sense from the book as to how and why they behaved as they did?
- What surprised you about Claus Spreckels? What about Dole? Are there other characters in the book that you feel played a pivotal role and you’d like to know more about them?
- What were the motives of the original missionaries in coming to Hawaii, and then how do you feel about their descendents? Was everyone generally well-intentioned, or was self-interest paramount?
- What is the relevance of this history for us today?
- Can you imagine an alternate history? Where would Hawaii be today if the US hadn’t annexed it? Where would the US be today without Hawaii?
- This was our non-fiction selection for the season. Do you think this particular history of Hawaii could be better told as ‘historical fiction’?