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Hapa Tales and Other Lies: A Mixed Race Memoir About the Hawai‘i I Never Knew

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In her first work of literary nonfiction, Sharon H. Chang reflects critically on her Asian American, Mixed Race, and activist identity through the prism of returning to Hawai‘i as a tourist. While visiting O‘ahu and Kaua‘i she considers childhood trips to Maua‘i and the Big Island, pop culture and Hollywood movies of her youth that perpetuated Hawaiian stereotypes, and wha In her first work of literary nonfiction, Sharon H. Chang reflects critically on her Asian American, Mixed Race, and activist identity through the prism of returning to Hawai‘i as a tourist. While visiting O‘ahu and Kaua‘i she considers childhood trips to Maua‘i and the Big Island, pop culture and Hollywood movies of her youth that perpetuated Hawaiian stereotypes, and what it means that she has been stereotyped as a “Hawai‘i Girl” her whole life though she has never lived on the islands. But what begins as a journey to unpack the ways she has been perceived and treated as a multiracial woman evolves into much more as Sharon learns the real impacts of colonization and corporate tourism on Hawai‘i and uncovers what her Asian multiracial “mainland” identity actually looks like in relationship to the land, its Indigenous peoples, and the Native Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement.


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In her first work of literary nonfiction, Sharon H. Chang reflects critically on her Asian American, Mixed Race, and activist identity through the prism of returning to Hawai‘i as a tourist. While visiting O‘ahu and Kaua‘i she considers childhood trips to Maua‘i and the Big Island, pop culture and Hollywood movies of her youth that perpetuated Hawaiian stereotypes, and wha In her first work of literary nonfiction, Sharon H. Chang reflects critically on her Asian American, Mixed Race, and activist identity through the prism of returning to Hawai‘i as a tourist. While visiting O‘ahu and Kaua‘i she considers childhood trips to Maua‘i and the Big Island, pop culture and Hollywood movies of her youth that perpetuated Hawaiian stereotypes, and what it means that she has been stereotyped as a “Hawai‘i Girl” her whole life though she has never lived on the islands. But what begins as a journey to unpack the ways she has been perceived and treated as a multiracial woman evolves into much more as Sharon learns the real impacts of colonization and corporate tourism on Hawai‘i and uncovers what her Asian multiracial “mainland” identity actually looks like in relationship to the land, its Indigenous peoples, and the Native Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement.

30 review for Hapa Tales and Other Lies: A Mixed Race Memoir About the Hawai‘i I Never Knew

  1. 4 out of 5

    Heather Rosewarne

    Hapa Tales and Other Lies is a captivating memoir by Sharon H. Chang that reflects on what Hawai'i has meant to Chang throughout her life as a Mixed Race woman of Asian and white descent. During a family vacation to Hawai'i, Chang sees the island through new woke eyes. Her book begins with recognition that Hawai'i was a land nurtured by Native Hawaiians for two millennia and she brings light to the Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement. By her gifted storytelling, she relates experiences that are poigna Hapa Tales and Other Lies is a captivating memoir by Sharon H. Chang that reflects on what Hawai'i has meant to Chang throughout her life as a Mixed Race woman of Asian and white descent. During a family vacation to Hawai'i, Chang sees the island through new woke eyes. Her book begins with recognition that Hawai'i was a land nurtured by Native Hawaiians for two millennia and she brings light to the Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement. By her gifted storytelling, she relates experiences that are poignant, raw and tender as she experiences both belonging and otherness. She moves seamlessly between personal experiences, popular culture references to Hawai'i and well researched facts, all the while unearthing the deeper themes of racism, colonialism and militarism. As a white woman, I found the book provocative and enlightening and it enriched my understanding of what it means to be Mixed Race as well as the impact of colonization on Hawai'i.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sherry

    Calling all people whose work or interests touch on diversity and equity: You need Sharon Chang's engaging observations on Hawaiian colonization, its problematic relationship with mixed-race people, and what that means for all of us. Her perspective as a mixed-race mainland woman offers us a nuanced, intersectional commentary like none I've seen. If you've ever felt uncomfortable being a tourist--but couldn't quite express why--allow this book to give voice to that discomfort. Chang sheds light Calling all people whose work or interests touch on diversity and equity: You need Sharon Chang's engaging observations on Hawaiian colonization, its problematic relationship with mixed-race people, and what that means for all of us. Her perspective as a mixed-race mainland woman offers us a nuanced, intersectional commentary like none I've seen. If you've ever felt uncomfortable being a tourist--but couldn't quite express why--allow this book to give voice to that discomfort. Chang sheds light on historic and demographic shifts common to tourism and long-term colonization in general. These truths belie the voice of tour guide, Americanized "ethnic" food, and pristine beachfronts. Chang's essays are interlaced with narratives I couldn't put down, including bracing childhood memories and ironic takes on what it's like to watch her own son engage with Hawaii's tourist facade--against a backdrop of oppression of indigenous people and the painful erasure that is colorblindness.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tasha Essen

    Sharon Chang’s memoir Hapa Tales and Other Lies provides captivating snippets from the West Coast-based Asian Mixed writer’s life while it documents her unfolding awareness of the oft problematic nature of our relationship with Hawaii. It’s a meditation on the author’s experience growing up Mixed in the continental U.S., as well as an exploration of the complicated history of Asians/Mixed Asians in Hawaii. Chang deconstructs the myth of Hawaii as a post-racial paradise populated by “happy hapas. Sharon Chang’s memoir Hapa Tales and Other Lies provides captivating snippets from the West Coast-based Asian Mixed writer’s life while it documents her unfolding awareness of the oft problematic nature of our relationship with Hawaii. It’s a meditation on the author’s experience growing up Mixed in the continental U.S., as well as an exploration of the complicated history of Asians/Mixed Asians in Hawaii. Chang deconstructs the myth of Hawaii as a post-racial paradise populated by “happy hapas.” She introduces readers to the compelling history of the Native Hawaiians and sheds light on the growing political dominance of Asian/Mixed settlers and the impact of that, along with the heavy U.S. military presence and corporate tourism, on the Indigenous population. I am an Asian Mixed woman myself, so I have experienced the ongoing longing for belonging common to Mixed Race individuals, and I suppose I can pass as someone “who belongs in Hawaii.” Yet my sense of Hawaii and my relationship to it has shifted on account of this book. I no longer fantasize about Hawaii as a multicultural and post-racial paradise where people like me ultimately belong. That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the beauty and charms that Hawaii has to offer. However, my blissful ignorance has disappeared. Now I have a deeper appreciation for the realities of the ongoing displacement of the Native Hawaiians from their own land. Thus, I’m able to hold a space in solidarity with the Native Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mikayla Ketner

    I recently quit going to therapy as I felt that my therapist (a white man who was born and raised in Seattle) was simply unable to understand most of my struggles which come from a search for identity and place as a mixed race woman in a nation that loves to categorize people by the color of their skin. Then this beautiful book fell into my life. It is so amazing to see the same thoughts that rattle through my head written out in a very real book on what it means to consistantly be tied to an is I recently quit going to therapy as I felt that my therapist (a white man who was born and raised in Seattle) was simply unable to understand most of my struggles which come from a search for identity and place as a mixed race woman in a nation that loves to categorize people by the color of their skin. Then this beautiful book fell into my life. It is so amazing to see the same thoughts that rattle through my head written out in a very real book on what it means to consistantly be tied to an island I've never actually been to, and how this promotes the settlerism of Hawai'i through asian mixed bodies like my own.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mad Hapa

    I was predisposed to like this book. I'm the same age as the author, mixed-race and grew up on the West Coast. I hoped this book would be an exploration of what it means to be hapa/mixed, and/or teach me something about the history of Hawai'i. The book does neither of these things. On page 111, the author writes that being a Biracial Asian person makes her feel, "amorphous and empty." She fills that empty space with guilt and anxiety. I didn't expect this to be a fun read, but I thought it would I was predisposed to like this book. I'm the same age as the author, mixed-race and grew up on the West Coast. I hoped this book would be an exploration of what it means to be hapa/mixed, and/or teach me something about the history of Hawai'i. The book does neither of these things. On page 111, the author writes that being a Biracial Asian person makes her feel, "amorphous and empty." She fills that empty space with guilt and anxiety. I didn't expect this to be a fun read, but I thought it would at least have some nutritional value. If you know basically nothing about Hawaiian history, okay, you might learn something (but there are better books out there if history is what you're looking for). At one point I decided to stop reading it, but picked it up again because I thought, "well, maybe my first impressions were wrong." Nope. A particularly agonizing chapter finds the author (and her son) at Ala Moana mall in HNL. She writes about her extreme disappointment in the white-owned stores and lack of brown faces in the adverts. Yeah, I had this same feeling when I was 7 years old, what else ya got? The author stresses about being on panels for woman of color (is she, isn't she) and how she regrets not asking her grandparents about their lives. The book is every anxiety or regret you may have had as a hapa/mixed person drawn out in detail over nearly 200 pages. This book did the opposite of what I hoped it would. Instead of providing enlightening insights about mixed/hapa people, it just made me feel confused and depressed.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    The perfect book to read if you want to go beyond the tourist definition of Hawaii. Thank you, Sharon, for much-needed perspective and insight!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Chelseyann

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ileana

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Detwiler

  10. 4 out of 5

    Allie

  11. 4 out of 5

    Shelley

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Mabuni

  13. 5 out of 5

    KT

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kristina Robertson

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joey

  17. 4 out of 5

    Karin

  18. 4 out of 5

    Leanna Keith

  19. 4 out of 5

    Neal

  20. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Aplaca

  21. 4 out of 5

    Susan

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ivy

  23. 4 out of 5

    Natasha

  24. 5 out of 5

    Justine

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michaela

  26. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa

  27. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Verevkina

  28. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

  29. 4 out of 5

    Caroline N.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Chang

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