Elegant, brutal, and profound—this magnificent debut captures the grit and glory of modern Hawai'i with breathtaking force and accuracy.
In a stunning collection that announces the arrival of an incredible talent, Kristiana Kahakauwila travels the islands of Hawai'i, making the fabled place her own. Exploring the deep tensions between local and tourist, tradition and expectation, façade and authentic self, This Is Paradise provides an unforgettable portrait of life as it’s truly being lived on Maui, Oahu, Kaua'i and the Big Island.
In the gut-punch of “Wanle,” a beautiful and tough young woman wants nothing more than to follow in her father’s footsteps as a legendary cockfighter. With striking versatility, the title story employs a chorus of voices—the women of Waikiki—to tell the tale of a young tourist drawn to the darker side of the city’s nightlife. “The Old Paniolo Way” limns the difficult nature of legacy and inheritance when a patriarch tries to settle the affairs of his farm before his death.
Exquisitely written and bursting with sharply observed detail, Kahakauwila’s stories remind us of the powerful desire to belong, to put down roots, and to have a place to call home.
Kahakauwila's debut short-story collection offers a stirring glimpse into the daily lives of contemporary Hawaiians torn between native traditions and the pull of mainland lifestyles. The profound differences between a Hawaiian and her white boyfriend threaten their relationship in "The Road to Hana"; a girl mourns her grandmother's death in "Thirty-Nine Rules for Making a Hawaiian Funeral into a Drinking Game"; and in the title piece, young Hawaiian women working at a beachside resort observe a na ve tourist's tragic fate. Varying in style and theme, the book's six stories conjure up memorable characters, from a man struggling to reveal his homosexuality to his sister and dying father ("The Old Paniolo Way") to a woman who seeks to avenge her father's death by engaging in the gruesome business of cock-fighting ("Wanle"). Beyond questions of identity, Kahakauwila also explores domestic life, as in "Portrait of a Good Father," about a family torn apart by a husband's affair and his son's death. Filled with an energy and outrage reminiscent of Jamaica Kincaid, Kahakauwila also gives her characters distinct voices that mix Hawaiian and mainland-American dialects. Altogether, a well-crafted work that compassionately treats the men and women who love and suffer in an island paradise.