I've been a bit obsessed with Hawaii for the past year or so. My obsession has nothing to do with nice beaches or aloha shirts, mai tais or ukuleles. No, I'm fascinated with Hawaii's diverse ethnic mix and unique cultural milieu. Really, I am, I didn't just want to say "milieu." Though I will admit that Hawaii's warm weather is a definite plus. Cold weather sux.
Check it out: Hawaii is the only US state with no ethnic majority, but if you divide the population in to Asians and whites, the Asians win hands down. They say that Hawaii residents have a 50% chance of marrying someone of a different ethnic background, but I imagine that 20% of the residents, who are mixed, must be really confused as to how they came up with that 50% figure. If a half-Chinese half-Hawaiian guy marries a half-Chinese half-white girl, does that count as marrying "within your race?" Who knows.
Hawaii is the only state that doesn't classify racially motivated crimes because it would be too damn difficult. "The suspect was 1/8 Irish, 1/8 Chinese, 1/8 Japanese..." It just wouldn't work.
Sometimes I feel like my obsessions are simply following popular trends. If Hollywood movies serve as a barometer for American interests, I'm right on track; The Rock (you know the Scorpion King?) is now gearing up to play Kamehameha in a movie about the legendary Hawaiian king. I think a cop show set in Honolulu is in production now as well. It's sobering to think that every time I think I've made some amazing discovery, I'm only retreading well-trod trails. Not that I should be dissuaded.
I'm reading a book now called Blu's Hanging by Lois-Ann Yamanaka. The author is perhaps Hawaii's best known literary writer and a fervent proponent of legitimizing Pidgin, the Hawaiian creole. It's not a great book - a bit lacking in depth - but I really like how she uses Pidgin throughout. I really dig English-based creoles.
Speaking of creoles, when I went to Singapore, I couldn't understand Singlish one bit! "You drive so fast, mm chai si hah?" Stuff like that. I felt like I was on a really clean version of the Blade Runner set. Hawaiian Pidgin would probably easer to understand, at least for me, since a lot of words come from Japanese. Words like shoyu, otemba and chimpo show up in Yamanaka's book.
I read James Michener's Hawaii a while ago. A lot of people dismiss it as a potboiler, but I really liked it. I know, reading Michener can sometimes feel like eating a pack of saltines without having anything to drink, but I've so far read Mexico, Caravans, and Hawaii - and thoroughly enjoyed all three. Funny thing is, I can't seem to find a Japanese translation of Hawaii that's in print. Here's one book you'd think would have been translated long ago, considering the prominent role played by the Japanese in 20th century Hawaiian history, but so far I've only been able to find a 1997 translation that is already out of print. Apparently, the translator was an amateur who didn't do such a great job. Still, I'd like to find a used copy somewhere. I've scoured the Web, but have come across nothing.