Well, it’s official. Christian and I, along with three others, have sold our souls for the next eight months to a publisher to write/create a photo book of Hawaiians in Los Angeles for the Arcadia Publishing Images in America series.
Before we were approved, I wasn’t too concerned about the book. In all honesty, I didn’t think it would ever leave the ground. I fought for it and I jumped through hoops for it, but it was to be more of a team player and to help those around me realize their vision than for me to realize any of my dreams. Fast forward a few weeks, and we get a letter and contract from the publisher indicating that our book proposal has been approved. Last night, I discussed royalties and book disclosures, things I never thought I would.
I’m excited about the book, but I’ve also been in a perpetual anxiety attack since receiving word of the approval. It’s not that I don’t want to do it. It’s that I don’t want to do it wrong. As a Native Hawaiian born and raised in the diaspora, my feelings about my ancestral homeland are strong and vary vastly from the mainstream, kitsch, Hawaii 5-0 view of Native Hawaiian people, life, and culture. I don’t want this book to merely perpetuate the stereotypes of Hawaiians and Hawaiian culture. I want people to realize that we are not mythological. That we were done a great injustice when our monarchy was overthrown and we were annexed, then became a territory, and then entered statehood. I want people to realize that we are all around and we don’t wear coconut bras and leis.
I want our history as a people on the continent and our struggle with stereotypes to be conveyed. That while we who live on the continent have so many opportunities, we are also bound by the past and by the stereotyped view of Hawaiians. Many have no choice but to work in the commercial industry. With one of the lowest education rates of any race or ethnicity in the US and one of the highest poverty rates, many Native Hawaiians are forced to exploit their culture and maintain these stereotypes to earn a living. To sell themselves and to sell books.
I don’t want to be one of those people. I am not only Native Hawaiian. I am also portuguese, filipino, chinese, english, dutch, german, french canadian, and the list continues. I do not want to sell one part of myself to have my name on a book. I want to educate people and paint the picture that we are not the happy savages. I want people to realize also, that although we are mostly mixed-race as a whole, we still have great pride on our ancestors and their contributions to making us who we are today. but how can I do this through pictures with very few words to convey the strong emotions and opinions which accompany them?
I feel this book will be a true test. A test to how much I really believe in my political convictions and how much I want to ensure the success of those around me.