Thursday, February 16, 2017

Unfamiliar Fishes: A painful tale of native loss combined with an idealistic multiethnic saga

Back in December I went to Hawai'i for my first time. So how could I not get a copy of Vowell's Unfamiliar Fishes to read while there? It would have been ridiculous not to. Ridiculous, I say!
For those unfamiliar with Vowell, what are you doing with your life?* Haha I kid (kinda). Vowell writes about American history with snark and wit and hilarity, which is all I ask for in a history book. Most books, really.

Unfamiliar Fishes is the history of Hawai'i. Or at least the history of Hawai'i from the point when Americans/missionaries decided to start sticking their nose in.
I mean, they meant well.
Sure, all missions are inherently patronizing to the host culture. That's what a mission is - a bunch of strangers showing up somewhere uninvited to inform the locals they are wrong. But it's worth remembering that these women, and the men they married so recklessly, believe they were risking their own lives to spare strangers on the other side of the world from an eternity in hell.
It's not only about the missionaries, though it is a lot about these people that traveled half way across the world. And they did some good things, like helping to develop a written form of the Hawaiian language. It's also about the Hawaiian royalty who perhaps weren't always the best (see rules governing what women could and couldn't do, down to not being allowed to eat bananas and just a whole bunch of incest).

She also mentions the Rainbow Drive-In, which we ate at during our trip and it was delicious. Oh and if you're wondering, while I don't understand the genius of macaroni salad with pretty much everything, I have come to appreciate it.
Seriously, so good
There are good parts in the history of these islands. And bad parts. And sad parts. You know, like any other history. I recommend the book. And if you can read it while in Hawai'i, preferably while sitting on one of the beautiful beaches, hey, all the better, right?

Gif rating:
*What are some other kick ass Vowell works? LET ME TELL YOU
Assassination Vacation
Lafayette in the Somewhat United States
The Partly Cloudy Patriot
Take the Cannoli: Stories from the New World
The Wordy Shipmates

Title quote from page 9

Vowell, Sarah. Unfamiliar Fishes. Riverhead Books, 2011. Kindle