A few weeks ago, I was asked by a producer at Wondery if I’d be interested in being interviewed for the podcast American History Tellers about Hawaii’s last queen. I hesitated at first because my book on Hawaii had been published more than a decade ago. Agreeing to the interview would mean that I’d have to give myself a crash refresher course on my own book.
California Book Awards – 2022 Finalists!
Founded in 1931 during the depths of America’s Great Depression, the Commonwealth Club’s California Book Awards celebrates its 92nd anniversary this year.
The purpose of the awards is to highlight the work of California authors – a praiseworthy goal at a time when the publishing industry (then and now) remains focused on East Coast writers.
Over the years, many of the most important voices in American literature, such as Joan Didion, Ishmael Reed, Amy Tan, Hector Tobar, and Viet Thanh Nguyen, have been honored with California Book Awards.
History Written by the Victors….
For an example of history being written by the victors, consider the case of Jane Lathrop Stanford, the victim of one of California’s most puzzling unsolved murder mysteries.
As co-founder and primary benefactor of Stanford University, Jane died of strychnine poisoning in 1905 in Waikiki. For nearly a century, the fact of her murder was successfully covered up.
The key figure involved in that cover-up was the university’s first president, David Starr Jordan. He was the victor in shaping how history judged Jane’s contribution as a leading educational philanthropist over the next hundred years or so.
United Nations and Human Trafficking
March is Women’s History Month and I’m thrilled to take part on Friday, March 19th in a virtual panel at this year’s United Nations Commission on the Status of Women NGO Forum.
The event is being organized by the San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking, a public-private partnership established more than a decade ago by the National Council of Jewish Women and the Jewish Coalition to End Human Trafficking in collaboration with the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women, the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, and the San Francisco Mayor’s Office.
The Safe Place That Became Unsafe
Early on in the research for The White Devil’s Daughters, I learned about a horrific aftermath to the story I was writing. My focus was on a group of women residents and staffers of a historic safe house who fought sex slavery at the turn of the 20th century. One day, while sifting through case files with the home’s retired executive director, she suddenly turned to me and asked, do you know about Dick Wichman?
Remembering Judy Yung
Judy Yung’s death this month marks the passing of a gifted and generous scholar. Her groundbreaking work in the history of Asian American women paved the way for a new generation of thinkers and writers.
Along with fellow San Franciscans Him Mark Lai and the Philip P. Choy, Judy Yung made an enormous contribution to our understanding of the Asian American experience. Her focus was on women, a group that had been largely been overlooked by scholars. Judy died on December 14 at her home after a fall, at the age of 74.
The Queen’s Diaries
It took a decade for The Diaries of Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii to finally be published. The result: a stunningly beautiful book that will be used by scholars and lovers of Hawaii for years to come.
David W. Forbes led the effort to gather and annotate the diaries of the last queen of Hawaii, aided by the University of Hawaii’s Marvin “Puakea” Nogelmeier, the Hawaii State Archive’s Jason Achiu, and others.
Honololu-based book designer Barbara Pope played a key role as the project’s fierce and tireless advocate. She eventually found a publisher in the Liliuokalani Trust and distribution through the University of Hawaii Press.
Talking with Min Jin Lee
Over this past week, I’ve been immersed in Pachinko. To be specific, I had the fortunate assignment to read Min Jin Lee’s masterful novel Pachinko, which is a family saga about the world of Koreans living in Japan.
I’ve always loved the sprawling social novels of the 19th century – Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist and Hard Times, Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, and Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.
In the 20th century, perhaps the most famous social novel was John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, which exposed the hardships of migrant farm workers. These are all works that explore pressing social problems through the lives of characters. They’re also sometimes called protest novels, because they often aim to expose a social injustice.
Overcrowded prisons in our back yards
I wrote this essay on San Quentin for an online class I’m taking titled “Reading and Writing the Very Short Essay.” It’s taught by one of my favorite authors, Lauren Markham. It was published in Sunday’s Sacramento Bee print edition and other McClatchy papers throughout the state on July 5, 2020 and appeared online a few days before that.
Honoring Hawaii’s Queen
At a time when statues are toppling across the nation, one work of public art stands tall.
It is the eight-foot-tall bronze of Hawaii’s Queen Lili’uokalani, who faces the state Capitol in Honolulu. This beautifully rendered artwork, by the American realist sculptor Marianna Pineda, is even more powerful today than it was when it was erected in the 1980s.
If anything, this regal public monument become even more beloved over time. To understand why, watch this PBS American Masters short documentary on the Queen that’s just been released. It’s a wonderful and very moving.