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Posted - 10/09/2003 :  10:56:09 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I have just finished reading Ku Kanaka by George Kanahele, (subtitle: A Search for Hawaiian Values,) University of Hawaii Press, 1986, ppb about $24.00 new. (Yes this is the same George Kanahele who was responsible for the Dictionary of Music & Musicians and the great film on the history of Hawaiian Music.)

This is one of the best books I've read this year. GK wrote the book for two audiences.First and foremost for Hawaiians, to help them proudly claim their heritage, overcome a kind of "cultural inferiority," and to make a contribution to the discussions happening during the "Hawaiian Renaissance" of the time. It is based upon extensive research and, more importantly, a series of workshops addressing the issues of traditional Hawaiian values. The second audience is people interested in Hawaiian culture.

This book is not easy going -- but worth every second. Prof Kanahele is an erudite scholar who can present the core of an idea in a very understandable manner. As to the sources he used - those with which I am familiar (mostly anthropology and comparative mythology) are quoted or paraphrased with a high degree of accuracy and insight. I trust this is carried out throughout the work. This book is fairly encyclopaedic - and if you start getting bored with one section, there's more then enough different subjects to spark your interest. I would, however, stringly urge you NOT to skip the Introduction and the First Section (The world of the Sacred.) Even though these are some of the more difficult pages, they also form a base upon which most of the remainder rests.)

Will this make you play slack key better? If that's the only critereon you use -- get a life. This book will help you understand and appreciate the background, contributions and values of an important part of the Human Family. Will a growth in human understanding help you play slack key?

And -- if you are kanaka, I can't imagine reading this book and not "Standing taller." I spoke with two Hawaiian friends who read this book years ago, and they told me it made a huge difference in their lives. I wish I knew of a book like this dealing with Polish culture when I was a teen/young adult.

In sum, for anyone interested in some part of Hawaiian culture - and you wouldn't be reading this if you weren't -- I think this is a definite "must read."

Raymond Stovich
San Jose
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