Review of Local Geography: Essays on Multicultural Hawai'i. Ragnar Carlson. Honolulu Weekly. Vol 9, June 8-14, 2005.
In this collection, Dennis Kawaharada, a noted chronicler of native Hawaiian literature, explores the historical and contemporary terrain of his beloved Hawai'i. From a memoir of boyhood days in Kane'ohe to a travelogue from a recent expedition to the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, each of these essays weaves Kawaharada's experience into something larger, creating a remarkable tapestry of cultural, personal and natural history. Kawaharada is a gifted essayist--in his hands, the book's title piece becomes in equal parts discussion of the Hawaiian calendar, historical biography of Hawaiian literary figures and exposition on "Moolelo o Pakaa a me Kuapakaa," a native Hawaiian chant in which the speaker circles O'ahu, naming each ahupua'a and each wind along the way. The opening essay, "Mango Trees on Kea'ahala Road," explores the alienation and confusion that result when one's identity is rooted in the soil of Kane'ohe but assaulted by a barrage of cultural and political messages from faraway lands. "I found my prime meridian ran not through Greenwich, God, America or the Bank of Hawai'i," Kawaharada writes, "but through the mango trees on Kea'ahala Road."