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!)
My husband and I went to several holiday parties this year and perhaps the most heartfelt took place in early December, at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center in San Francisco.
We were invited to the J-Town hui’s annual holiday show and potluck. The hui (Hawaiian for a club or association) was made up of students in the music and vocal classes led by a beloved and longtime Hawaiian music teacher in the city named Carlton Ka’ala Carmack. There were ukeleles, hula performances, and mountains of delicious food. As the island saying goes, it was real ono!
It is one of the most memorable first sentences of a novel ever written. With three simple words, it draws us into the story, lets us know who the narrator is, and hints at dramatic transformations to come.
This opening line – Call me Ishmael – was written by Herman Melville in his epic about Captain Ahab’s quest to kill the white whale Moby Dick. One of the surprises of the San Francisco Opera’s current production of Moby Dick is that this line is used in a different way in the story – to very good effect. I won’t spoil the pleasure in telling you how, but would urge you to see this wonderful production yourself.
September 2 is the birthday of Hawai’i’s last reigning monarch, Lili’uokalani. Born in a grass house in 1838 and adopted by Hawai’i’s ruling dynasty, the infant girl who would become Hawai’i’s last queen began her tumultuous life 174 years ago at the base of an dormant volcano in Honolulu.
For the past several years, historians, Hawaiian cultural practitioners, and others who keep Lili’uokalaini’s memory alive, have gathered at the grounds of ‘Iolani Palace on her birthday to lead walking historical walking tours in an event called Mai Poina (Don’t Forget.) The tour on her birthday sold out but there are still a few spots left this coming weekend, September 7-9.
The ancient Polynesians felt profound respect for the power of the sea. Their custom was to carry ti leafs with them when they went on risky journeys. As Susan Casey reports in her masterful book, The Wave, California-born but Hawaii-bred surfing legend Laird Hamilton, perhaps superstitiously, always carries a ti leaf along with him as he hunts down the world’s monster waves. “You take the leaf out,” Hamilton told her, “and the leaf brings you home.” So far it’s worked for him.
By Julia Flynn Siler, first published in the Wall Street Journal‘s Speakeasy blog on 3/12/2012
- Julia Flynn Siler and Her Royal Highness Princess Abigail Kawananakoa.
A few days before heading to Honolulu on book tour for “Lost Kingdom,” I got a phone call from the assistant to Her Royal Highness Princess Abigail Kawananakoa, the woman who is the most direct descendant of the last queen of Hawaii. If the monarchy had not been overthrown in 1893, Princess Abigail today might well have become Hawaii’s queen.
On my last night in Honolulu on tour for my new book, Lost Kingdom, I was invited for drinks at the Outrigger Canoe Club, which sits at the far end of Waikiki Beach, in the shadow of Diamond Head. The club is a key setting for the novel, The Descendants, which is now an Oscar-winning film starring George Clooney.
The Outrigger is a small, private club with an outsized history in Hawaii. Founded in 1908, it is the place where legendary surfer Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, a five-time Olympics medalist who competed as a swimmer and water polo player for the U.S. in the 1912, 1920, 1924, and 1932 games. A photo of Duke is mounted on the wood-paneled wall as you enter the dining room, with the words underneath it, “Ambassador of Aloha.”
Mahalo nui loa – Hawaiian for thank you very much! – to the dozen or so book groups I’ve heard from around the country that have picked Lost Kingdom as their monthly or quarterly read. 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 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. 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.
In the early hours of Sunday, December 7, 1941, seventy years ago, Japanese bombers launched a surprise attack against the US military base at Pearl Harbor. The devastating attack on Hawaii, which was then an American territory, profoundly shook the nation and hastened its entry into World War II.
Opening night at the inaugural Napa Valley Film Festival began with a walk along a red carpet into the city’s refurbished Napa Valley Opera House, a grand name for a frontier theater dating back to 1880. Screen actors, a few industry executives, and a good sampling of Napa locals (some dressed glamorously in boas and satin evening gowns, others in work boots and down vests) sipped on wine and nibbled ice cream lollipops from Napa’s Eiko restaurant.
Catherine Thorpe, who helped research both The House of Mondavi and Lost Kingdom, joined me at the opening reception, where we quickly spotted a bespectacled man wearing a lei, or garland, of green leaves. Making our way through the crowd, we introduced ourselves.