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Shark Dialogues Paperback – August 1, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Four women are called together by their domineering grandmother, who recounts the epic history of their Hawaiian family.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This expansive and engrossing multigenerational saga details the history of Hawaii through the experiences of one family. It begins in the 19th century with the dramatic meeting of a young Yankee sailor and a beautiful Tahitian princess. Their descendants, who live in contemporary Hawaii, are four cousins named Vanya, Ming, Rachel, and Jess who have been brought up by Pono, a kahuna, or seer, who has never talked about her mysterious past to her four granddaughters. Davenport deftly includes much information in the narrative--about politics, leprosy, and the racial melting pot that is Hawaiian society--with a minimum of didacticism. She incorporates folklore, history, and myth in a vivid, lush prose style that only occasionally becomes overwrought. This first novel is much better written than James Michener's Hawaii (1959) and brings Hawaiian history up to the present day. Entertaining and educational, it is an excellent purchase for public libraries of any size. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/94.
- Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr . for the Book, Seattle
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (August 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452274583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452274587
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,806 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

KIANA DAVENPORT is descended from a full-blooded Native Hawaiian mother, and a Caucasian father from Talladega, Alabama. Her father, Braxton Bragg Davenport, was a sailor in the U.S. Navy, stationed at Pearl Harbor, when he fell in love with her mother, Emma Kealoha Awaawa Kanoho Houghtailing. On her mother's side, Kiana traces her ancestry back to the first Polynesian settlers to the Hawaiian Islands who arrived almost two thousand years ago from Tahiti and the Tuamotu's. On her father's side, she traces her ancestry to John Davenport, the puritan clergyman who co-founded the American colony of New Haven, Connecticut in 1638.

Kiana is the author of the internationally best-selling novels, SHARK DIALOGUES, SONG OF THE EXILE, HOUSE OF MANY GODS, THE SPY LOVER, and most recently, THE SOUL AJAR, now available in paperback and on Kindle. She is also the author of the collections, HOUSE OF SKIN PRIZE-WINNING STORIES, CANNIBAL NIGHTS, PACIFIC STORIES Volume II, and OPIUM DREAMS, PACIFIC STORIES, VOLUME III. All three collections have been Kindle bestsellers. She has also been a guest blogger on Huffington Post.

A graduate of the University of Hawaii, Kiana has been a Bunting Fellow at Harvard University, a Visiting Writer at Wesleyan University, and a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant. Her short stories have won numerous O. Henry Awards, Pushcart Prizes, and the Best American Short Story Award, 2000. Her novels and short stories have been translated into twenty-one languages. She lives in Hawaii and New York City.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
Written by a woman of Hawaiian descent who clearly loves her people, this family saga is the story of Hawaii itself. The central character is the matriarch Pono, whose life includes harsh realities and surreal myths. Her long and passionate love for her husband Duke has caused her great joy, but the situations they had to face together have required strength and courage.
Pono's four adult granddaughters, each born of a different mixed blood heritage and who now live in various parts of the world, come back to Hawaii to visit, forcing them all to come to terms backgrounds.
Their stories are all revealed though flashbacks, going all the way back through seven generations, mixing history with myth in a wonderful array of unforgettable characters. I'll never forget the story of life in a leper colony, or of life on a plantation. I'll long remember the mythical quality of the sea and its ability to both nourish and destroy. There's life and death and passion and joy. There's war and peace and destruction by both human greed and natural forces.
At 480 pages, this is a book to sink into and look forward to reading at the end of the day. A book that brings the story of Hawaii alive to the reader and a fresh retelling of truths and legends
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Kama'aina 'O Hawaii on November 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
As I read this story, there was so much deep mana'o going through my mind. Although this is fictional story, it is a very real depiction of lives forever changed from generation to generation. Kiana has brought to paper the "real" lives of "local" island characters in her story and myself being a "born & raised" hapa (truer to my Hawaiian roots) I could relate to the characters portrayed in this story. I had the "Pono" in my life (my great grand-mother), my grand-uncle was a leper on Kalaupapa who was sheriff there, I have aunties who are educated and are sovereign activists, I have stories in my ohana like many of the characters in this book and I relate to the feelings of Jess (hating the white skin, but adhering to the white world and embracing the white way of life) loving the culture of my ancestors and the heritage of my past, and the pain felt for the lives upturned for those by just living in a coveted world. It's so hard to explain the emotion this novel creates within me, for the fire still burns inside of the injustices done to Hawaiians. Kiana has truly done her literary homework and for those who don't understand her writing, it just goes to show the justification of the characters depicted, and this novel may be FICTION as far as some of the historical content is concerned, but that history is REAL and has happened in different parts of many people's lives. IMUA Kiana!
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 17, 1997
Format: Paperback
"`SAILORS, LEPERS, OPIUM, SPIES--with such a family history, how could we be anyt'ing but sluts?' Dese Jess's last words to her grandmot'er, Pono. Dat night Pono walk into da sea." Thus, begins this wonderful book of story, saga and myth.

As I read Shark Dialogues I grew to understand the power and sacredness of the Hawaiian Islands. Also the complexities of the people who have inhabited them. Complexities presented to us with complex and well defined characters -- Women characters! It was so nice to delve into powerful women characters. Beginning with Kelonikoa, a Tahitian princess on the run in the 1800's. From Kelonikoa came a pouch of black pearls, a diary, and a heritage of strong, tenacious women. Her daughter Emma, Emma's daughter Lili, Lili's daughter Pono, and Pono's daughters and grandaughters.

Pono, the most powerful, like the sea. Pono, who could dream-see and swim with sharks. Pono, who could be so cruel. Pono, who scared everyone, especially her grandaughter's Jess, Vanya, Ming and Rachel, all the fruit of this woman.

This book beautifully shows the continuous cycle and circle of life, as we repeat our ancestors as ourselves. Here, as mothers struggle to love and raise their daughters, and as women seek the same over and over, in their lives, their love and their men. Shark Dialogues is personal, political, historical and magical.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Bryce Decker ( on October 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
Davenport, Kiana. Shark Dialogues. New York, Plume, 1994. 492 pages.
This is the most amazing Hawaiian novel I have ever read. Kiana Davenport's literary gifts, for fascinating, image-rich narrative of astonishing versatility and for unforgettable characters promise to lift her to world class status as a novelist.
This is a story of Hawaiian women, four generations of them, but with the 1990's focus on five of them, a grandmother of mythical and awesome presence and her four granddaughters, with fathers and husbands of differing ethnicities, the girls' fear of her and her hold on them, and the unfoldings of their mostly tragic loves and search for identities.
So gripping and spellbinding is the narrative that I am tempted to call this a women's book for men who don't care for women's books. These women's lives are as lively and perilous as those in a good thriller, but with an important difference. Their stories leave the reader with real insight into the desperate ambiguities that dog the lives of part-Hawaiian women in the 90's.
The book is, at first glance an historical novel, but be warned: the real events and geographies are outrageously juxtaposed with fictional ones and suborned in the maelstrom of the narrative. Davenport is true to her characters, and those who know Hawaii will recognize the essence of familiar personalities. But at the same time that they will be dismayed at many mis-renderings of places and events they know well. Some of these are bloopers that would have landed a lesser book in my trash bin, but Davenport redeems herself in her fictional characters. Authors never do so in print, but I am inclined to blame her editors.
Who should read this book? Women with imagination, certainly, and men who admire women.
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