Kaua'i Kids in Peace and War

Bill Fernandez. Makani Kai Media, $19.95 paper (250p) ISBN 978-1-4793-8491-4
In this candid memoir, Hawaii native Fernandez (Rainbows over Kapa'a) describes his hometown and the effects of the war on his childhood on the ethnically diverse island of Kaua'i. The narrative, which weaves childhood adventures with historical references, begins in peacetime with Fernandez growing up blissfully unaware of global troubles outside of his island. On an island laden with natural beauty, people trust ancient beliefs in kahunas, spiritual experts with "magical powers that can shrivel your body or snatch your soul.” Growing up surrounded by more than 20 ethnic groups, Fernandez explains "the Hawaiian way” of sharing "what you had with friends or strangers,” though, "Unfortunately, this tendency to give without expectation of reward had led to Hawaiians living in poverty.” Colorful recollections of learning how to swim, searching for a skyrocket-flying Santa Claus, learning about life while polishing shoes for American soldiers, and his parents' investment in a New York–style theater move the narrative forward. The latter half of the book depicts wartime changes in his hometown after the attack on Pearl Harbor: conflicts and tension between residents and their Japanese neighbors who feared internment; and the effect of soldiers in town. Though the chronology is sometimes confusing, this is an honest retelling of one native's experience during the war, and will be of particular interest to those interested in Hawaiian history.
Reviewed on: 04/22/2013
Release date: 01/01/2013
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