Friday, April 8, 2011

Unfamiliar Fishes

Unfamiliar Fishes
By Sarah Vowell
Riverhead Books, 2011. 238 pgs. Nonfiction

Sarah Vowell’s new book provides a look at the events surrounding the annexation and eventual statehood of Hawaii. Following Captain Cook’s discovery of the islands, Hawaii became a popular stop for sailors traversing the Atlantic. And, as could be expected, missionaries soon followed. The overwhelming influence of these visitors on the paradise they came to ‘save’ quickly consumed aspects of the native culture. The Hawaiians who lived through the infestation of European and American germs had little chance of escaping the invasion of capitalism and Christianity.

Colonization always has a dark and tragic side despite the well-meaning intentions of some participants. Sarah Vowell writes with a superb combination of humor and honesty as she tells this part of Hawaii’s history. She has an impressive ability to point out the ironic and ridiculous while maintaining a respectful tone. I would highly recommend this book to anyone visiting the islands or anyone looking for a good excuse to visit the islands (as if anyone actually needed more motivation).


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