Can you tell I'm getting ready for a quarterly brown bag luncheon for the library staff? My reading is veering away from mysteries for a while. I know. As much as I love them, I can't go in and talk about fifteen mysteries. I need to talk about a few other books as well. And, Sarah Vowell's nonfiction is always interesting. She's covering her version of Hawaiian history in Unfamiliar Fishes.
I've read five of Vowell's six books. She always does a great deal of research, and then attacks a subject from an unusual viewpoint. In this case, she looks at the changes that took place in Hawaii after New England missionaries came in 1820. In the forty-three years they were there, they introduced a written language, brought the literacy rate to over seventy percent, built schools and churches, and helped to change the government. However, not all the changes that came about were positive, including some of the governmental changes. Much of the native population, as with the Native Americans, were wiped out by smallpox, measles, and other diseases brought by the missionaries and sailors. The islands became ports for the whaling industry, and, eventually, after white men took over the government and land, the islands became home for American military bases. As a person who is part Cherokee, Vowell felt a kinship with the Hawaiians, who lost so much of their culture, their history, and control of their own land.
Sarah Vowell's latest book is not a happy book, although she's always witty in pointing out flaws in the way we view history. Take her comment about the Hawaiian war god, Ku. He may have been overthrown, but she pointed out, "Ku's new digs, the naval base at Pearl Harbor."
It's also not an easy book to read, with all of the detail about the missionaries from New England, and the history of their zeal. However, Sarah Vowell's books are always thought-provoking. Unfamiliar Fishes certainly provides a different view of the islands that seem like paradise to so many of us. Those islands were paradise to Hawaiians long before Americans wrested control from the native people. It's a fascinating, uncomfortable book to read.
I have been a library manager/administrator for over 30 years, in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and, now, Indiana. Winner of the 2011 Arizona Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award. I am a contributing Book Reviewer for Library Journal, Mystery Readers Journal, ReadertoReader.com and VibrantNation.com. Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Reviewer. First Fan Guest of Honor for Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Write Now! Conference.
It's an honor to be asked to review books, and I'm grateful to all the publishers, publicists, and authors who send me books. Thank you. Reviews will appear on my blog if I've had a chance to read, and finish, the book. If I do not finish a book, I won't review it, and I will not respond to emails asking when, or if, I'll be reviewing a book.
My reviews are only my opinion, and do not reflect the views of the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library.
I will not review self-published books, and, at the present time, do not accept books in e-book format.
My Oct. 19, 2009 blog provides full disclosure that I only receive review copies of books, with no other compensation. All review copies are marked as such. If there any any questions, please feel free to contact me.