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Hawaii: A Novel Paperback – Deluxe Edition, April 17, 2013
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"Mark Panek's new book 'Hawaiʻi' skillfully destroys the stereotypes perpetuated by Michener's 'Hawaii' as the token 'book about the islands.'"--Huffington Post
"Am I saying this is our Bonfire of the Vanities? Yes....Get this book...Get it before the post-Inouye island power players figure out a way to ban it."--Honolulu Weekly
"This isn't the Hawaii of sun, hula dancers, and Waikiki Beach. Nor is it James Michener's Hawaii or even the Hawaii of Hawaii Five-O. Mark Panek's Hawai'i is a place that the tourism industry would like to keep a deep, dark secret. In this sprawling, bowl-you-over novel, Panek blows that secret world wide open."--Colby Magazine
"Panek says his book is based on extensive interviews with lobbyists, reporters, activists, developers, and public officials, and it shows. The book reads and feels like the true state of affairs across the state."--Mauitime
"Mark Panek has truly crafted an epic tale...unafraid to dig into the scabs, re-open the wounds, and show us the color of the blood inside....If you've read any of Panek's previous non-fiction books, especially the poignant Big Happiness, then you'll know that he is a talented writer who is able to weave together local narratives and smaller stories gracefully into a web of greater social consciousness....Hawai'i succeeds in constructing a blisteringly authentic representation of the Hawai'i we live in today, one that stands tall in its unapologetic honesty. Must read."--Hawaiibookblog.com
"Panek's books are portals for viewing lives that tumble on behind the headlines. He combines journalistic-style coverage with atmospheric color and character portraits...Yes, the reference to Michener's classic is thoroughly intentioned. Panek is throwing down the gauntlet."--Hawai'i Public Radio
"Panek has an ear for language and an eye for the identifying detail...[He] confidently enters the smoke-filled rooms, flies to Asia on a lavish gubernatorial golf junket, represents the anger and savvy tactics of Hawaiian activists trying to protect their family's lands."--Honolulu Star-Advertiser
"Panek's depiction of Hawai'i is like none Michener could imagine."--Honolulu Magazine
"This story is expertly told through experiences and perspectives that are completely unique to the islands...Panek gives his readers a compelling, sometimes cynical, and often humorous account of what it's like to live in post-millennial Hawai'i."---Ke Kalahea
From the Inside Flap
"Every once in a while after reading a novel, I think: Wow, I'll never forget this one. Mark Panek's Hawai'i did this to me. A much-needed contemporary answer to James Michener's Hawaii, this novel takes Michener's 'golden men' vision of racial harmony out back and beats it. Panek succeeds in showing that racial conflict exists first, foremost, and finally within ourselves. His book should be read, re-read, and taught for years to come."--Chris McKinney, award-winning author of The Tattoo and Boi No Good
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Top customer reviews
Panek has expertly weaved together tales of today's Hawai'i - separate tales that when combined tell a sad, but truthful, story about issues facing the Aloha State. I have had the privilege to visit paradise and enjoyed the post-card like scenery and welcoming spirit of its people. But, beneath all of that tourism perfection - hula dancers, pineapple drinks, and abundant sunshine - exist real world problems such as overdevelopment, unemployment, and political corruption. Panek shows the reader this Hawai'i. The Hawai'i where celebrities and the mega-wealthy are able to enjoy their 4th home over-looking the ocean while those whose families helped populate the state centuries before it became one can barely survive, and often have to move to the mainland in order to do so.
Like Tom Wolfe, Panek is able to tell these real-world stories through well-developed, intriguing, fictional characters. Don't be intimidated by its length; you will be hard-pressed to put this book down. It is perfect for your summer reading list; just don't start it until you have a chunk of time to devote. Otherwise, your real-world responsibilities will be neglected. Buy this book.
From the depictions of characters, their thoughts, feelings, assumptions--right or wrong, moral or not--to the inner workings of underhanded, backdoor dealings of an apathetic and corrupt power base, Panek's HAWAI'I takes a brave stand against stereotypes, primarily the Tiki-torch-burning-in-front-of-a-Diamond-Head-backdrop version of the islands. The people he's written about are not just the people of a twenty-first century Hawai'i, either. Make no mistake about that. There are no cardboard cut-outs here. HAWAI'I argues that the players are the current components of a system that have existed for far too long, a system which has embroiled the people of Hawai'i in generation after generation of disappointment to the point of dehumanization. Emasculation, even.
Panek could have easily written an editorial, but he proves his skill as a novelist by deftly shining a light in the darkest corners of the islands' issues, leaving it up to us to piece together our truth. He made me laugh many times, as many as his images outraged. And more than once, I had to stop and re-read a line, a paragraph, a page, savoring the spot-on portrayal of people that I grew up with while simultaneously envying the hell out of Panek's ability to construct delectable syntax with equally rich diction that so thoroughly captured those observations to begin with.
Once again, HAWAI'I is an accomplishment. I have to admit, before I read it, the title seemed a bit too loaded to use for a piece of fiction. But that's precisely the point: how laden Hawai'i is with everyone else's--read outsiders'--notion of what it should be. And after reading HAWAI'I, I understood the title even better, perhaps even the "trick" Panek was after. For when I finished the novel last night, I hung my head and sighed, "Hawai'i", sad that I, like so many others, have had to move away from the place of my birth.
For anyone who wants to get an idea of what Hawai'i IS, at its core, don't bother with the ABC store and its monogrammed shot glasses and refrigerator magnets. Don't waste your time with the commodified version of paradise by going to a lu'au or petting dolphins at The Kahala. And certainly don't call out "Aloha!" to cars as you pass by on the Waikiki Trolley. Read this book instead. There's far more to learn about Hawai'i between the pages of HAWAI'I than on any tour bus to Waikele or any afternoon at the Polynesian Cultural Center. The most important lesson being that which has been taken advantage of for too many generations now: Hawai'i is its people.