I am often asked to recommend works of fiction about Hawaiʻi. Not being a big reader of fiction, it takes me a while to think of titles. I have here collected what I find to be the most noteworthy. I will add more as I come across them.
Ke Kaʻao o Laieikawai (The Hawaiian Romance of Laieikawai), SN Haleʻole – This work is notable in that it is the first fictional work of literature produced by a Kanaka Maoli, and that the author was educated in both Traditional Hawaiian and Western classics. Haleʻole was one of the first Kanaka Maoli to receive a Western education. It is based on a traditional kaʻao, a story told for amusement, about the princess Lāʻieikawai. Traditionally it was told as narrative in prose and interspersed with oli (chants) or mele (songs). It was first printed as a serial in the Hawaiian newspaper Ka Nupepa Kuokoa and later published in 1863 as a book. After Haleʻole’s death, it was revised in 1885 and then translated by Martha Warren Beckwith in 1918.
The Legend of ʻŌhiʻa and Lehua remains an all time favorite. I retell the version I learned here.
Pretty much anything by Lois-Ann Yamanaka is on my “favorites” list. We both started with Bamboo Ridge Press around the same time, but she kept writing her amazing books. If you grew up in Hilo in the 60s though 80s, you WILL recognize the people in her books. Yamanaka dares to say what we all thought growing up here. A brave writer, you have to be brave to read her work. But if you want your gut to understand modern Hawaiʻi, read her work. Stat with Blu’s Hanging and geep going.