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.
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.
Update on My United Nations Trip….
March is Women’s History Month and I had planned to participate by telling the story of a group of pioneering women who fought human trafficking…but, alas, our panel at the U.N. Women’s Conference in New York was just cancelled due to concerns over the coronavirus.
As part of a delegation of women to the United Nation’s CSW64, the Commission on the Status of Women. I was planning to take part in a panel to discuss the late 19th and early 20th century efforts to combat human trafficking detailed in my book, The White Devil’s Daughters: The Women Who Fought Against Slavery in San Francisco’s Chinatown, on March 12 in New York City, as part of the parallel NGO CSW Forum.
“Auntie” Tye and one degree of separation….
One of the unexpected pleasures of my book tour has been meeting readers whose own life stories overlap with the characters I write about in The White Devil’s Daughters.
After a recent talk I gave at the San Francisco Theological Seminary , a retired Chinese American woman named May Lynne Lim came up to introduce herself to me. We chatted briefly and she handed me a sealed envelope with my name inked onto it in careful handwritten script.
Finding Your Literary Community
At this year’s annual gathering of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, I was honored to give the opening talk. Here are my remarks.
I’m so happy to be here… to help celebrate the rollicking and generous spirit that has infused our Community all these years.
How many first-timers are here today? Raise your hands…
Well, for you newbies, you’ll see what I mean about community spirit here during the Follies later in the week. Or you may discover it while connecting with other writers over dinner or while hiking on Thursday with your fellow work-shoppers.
The Queen and the Clevelands (Grover and George…)
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.
Susan Orlean on Stagecraft (and How Writing Can Be Like Stripping…)
I just spent the past few days at the 21st Annual Book Passage Travel Writers & Photographers Conference. I was on a panel with Andrew McCarthy, who made his name as an actor in “Pretty in Pink,” “St. Elmo’s Fire,” and “Less Than Zero,” and is now an award-winning travel writer for National Geographic Traveler and other publications. I also discussed the “Art of Attention” on a panel with veteran travel writers David Farley, Larry Habegger, and Georgia Hesse.
Retracing Lili‘u’s Footsteps…
Purely by chance, I found myself in the Washington, D.C. neighborhood where Hawai‘i’s last queen, Lili‘uokalani, had once lived.
I was in Washington, D.C. to deliver a talk to a group of Treasury executives about my new book, Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America’s First Imperial Adventure. I’d booked a hotel near Dupont Circle.
The evening after the Treasury talk, I was on my way to a dinner party thrown by a group of college friends and stopped at Cairo Wine & Liquor, a small shop a few blocks away from my hotel, to pick up a bottle of wine.
Improv for Writers
I was at the bottom of a long wait list with faint hope of getting in. But just days before the start of a four-day improvisation workshop last month I got a call from BATS (Bay Area Theatre Sports) asking whether I’d like to join its intensive class led by the legendary teacher Keith Johnstone.
I dropped everything and did some swift scheduling improv of my own. I pushed an interview for a newspaper story I was researching into the following week and found other parents to drive my teenagers around. As it turned out, my last-minute scramble was worth it. It helped me regain my spark.