cover image Hula


Jasmin Iolani Hakes. HarperVia, $32 (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-327698-7

Hakes’s ambitious and poignant debut centers on a Hawaiian girl’s coming-of-age in Hilo. Laka Naupaka returns to Keaukaha in 1968 with her newborn baby daughter, Hi’i, after a brief stint working at a Maui resort. Her family, though, keep themselves at a distance and denounce Hi’i, who looks white, as a “haole.” As Hi’i grows up, she develops a thick skin to shield herself from the constant rumors that she was found behind a dumpster. Soon enough, Hi’i begs her mom to enroll her in a hula school. Laka, a former Miss Aloha Hula, reluctantly agrees. Meanwhile Laka’s mother, Hulali, a pillar of the burgeoning native Hawaiian movement, is deeply invested in promoting Hawaiian culture, language, and history, and relentlessly exhorts Laka to turn over Hi’i’s birth certificate so that she can be recognized as Hawaiian like the rest of the Naupaka family. When Hi’i’s lineage is eventually revealed, matters are further complicated for the family as well as for Hi’i’s dreams of hula. Hakes studs the story with marvelous details of Hawaiian cosmology and historical developments such as the formation of the Hawaiian kingdom and the purpose of hula (“It was our generational memory, our celestial genealogy. Hula told the story of who we were”). Hakes illuminates on every page. Agent: Sarah Bowlin, Aevitas Creative Management. (May)