Honolulu is the richly imagined story of Jin, a young picture bride who leaves her native Koreawhere girls are so little valued that she is known as Regretand journeys to Hawaii in 1914 in search of a better life.
Instead of the prosperous young husband and the chance at an education she has been promised, Jin is quickly married off to a poor, embittered laborer who takes his disappointments out on his new wife, forcing her to make her own way in a strange land.
Struggling to build a business with the help of her fellow picture brides, Jin finds both opportunity and prejudice, but ultimately transforms herself from a naive young girl into a resourceful woman. Prospering along with her adopted city, which is fast growing from a small territorial capital to the great multicultural city it is today, Jin can never forget the people she left behind in Korea, and returns one last time to make her peace with her former life.
With its passionate knowledge of people and places in Hawaii far off the tourist track, Honolulu is a spellbinding story of the triumphs and sacrifices of the human spirit that is sure to become another reading group favorite.
Read Alan Brennert's blog entry about Honolulu at BookBrowse.
Today the 1920s are often referred to as Hawai'is glamour days, though they were considerably less glamorous for those who struggled under the crushing poverty of Kauluwela, Green Block, or Hells Half Acre. But for our family, as for many other Korean households in Hawai'i, the twenties were a time of rising prosperity. There were now perhaps a hundred or so Korean families living in Buckle Lane and adjacent Akepo Lane most of them having fled the plantations for the canneries, even as others abandoned the canneries to become tailors, launderers, shoemakers, or grocers. The twenties were also kind to my Sisters of Kyongsang. As Wise Pearls carnation farm flourished, she and Mr. Kam invested more of its profits in additional acres on which they raised barley, to be made into a kind of Korean taffy called yot. Shizu and Beautys barbershop, on the corner of Merchant and Bishop Streets, was ...
Honolulu is everything good historical fiction should be. It entertains and educates, while immersing the reader in the time and place conveyed, and it's sure to find its way into many readers' hearts.
(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
Full Review (1142 words).
Korean Picture Brides
Korea became the object of Japan's colonial ambitions in the late nineteenth century, culminating in Japan's annexation of the region in 1910. Koreans, escaping the abuse and heavy taxation imposed by the Japanese, began immigrating to Hawaii. Approximately 6000 migrated to the islands between 1906 and 1910, 90% of whom were male. Most ended up as laborers on sugarcane plantations. The Japanese government prohibited emigration to Hawaii starting in 1910, but provided an exception for relatives of those already living in Hawaii.
A shortage of marriageable women, combined with the loophole in Japan's immigration laws, allowed for the rise of the "picture bride." A Korean man in Hawaii would provide a ...
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