Friday, February 13, 2009

Honolulu-Alan Brennert

Alan Brennert
St. Martin's, Mar 3 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312360405

In 1914, Korean Regret wants to attend school, but has no money to do so because in her country females are banned from classrooms. To go to school, she must leave the peninsular; she chooses Hawaii where girls attending school is the norm. She signs up as a mail order bride and a wealthy Hawaiian agrees to marry her.

She changes her name to Jin and arrives in Hawaii. However, she finds the islands not to be a paradise as her plantation owning spouse is abusive and overindulges with alcohol and gambling, which in a vicious circle leads to more nastiness towards her. She and some of her mail order bride peers, in similar ugly marriages, flee for Honolulu where they hope to find a better way to earn a living.

This epic look at Hawaii over several decades in the first half of the twentieth century contains a ton of interesting tidbits that anchor time and place but also supersedes the coming of age character study of an Asian expatriate. Especially enlightening and extremely insightful is the WW1 and Depression Eras as the female Asians struggle with survival. Fans will appreciate Alan Brennert’s deep look back as Asian immigrants making it in the Hawaiian Territory before WW II changed the paradigm.

Harriet Klausner

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