Excerpt from The Color of Air by Gail Tsukiyama, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Color of Air

by Gail Tsukiyama

The Color of Air by Gail Tsukiyama X
The Color of Air by Gail Tsukiyama
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jul 2020, 320 pages
    May 2021, 256 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

The Color Of Air

Nori hurried back from the green bungalow to the Okawa Fish Market, across the road from Hilo Bay. One of the two- story clapboard buildings on Kamehameha Avenue, it had formerly been the Hilo Town Bar. She passed the older, two- story S. Hata Building, and the S. H. Kress & Company Building, where all the wealthy haole ladies, whose husbands managed the plantations and ran the banks, came down from their big houses up the hill to have lunch and shop for the latest fashions. The buildings gleamed in their Art Deco newness, both products of the sugar wealth in Hilo town during the past forty years that had kept the town growing, and dimmed all the small family- owned businesses of her childhood. Nori swallowed her rising anxiousness and pushed through the crowded streets. She didn't want to be late to Daniel's party.

Since the stock market crash six years ago, there had been other changes. The once- quiet downtown streets were noisy and restless, teeming with agitated Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Portuguese men waiting desperately for work on the docks. Nori heard that thousands of Filipino workers had already been sent back to the Philippines by the plantation owners, but it was hard to tell as she slipped by so many sour, unwashed bodies, avoiding eye contact as she picked up her pace and clutched her basket close.

"Lady! Lady," someone called out to her, but she kept moving.

In the past few months there'd been countless drunken fights, a stabbing down on the docks outside of Hoku's Bar, and the window of Ching's Laundry had been smashed by a brick in the middle of the night. Nori remembered a time when it never crossed her mind to lock the market's door after dark. Closed meant closed. Now things were different.

Still, as Hilo town continued to grow around her, the one thing that hadn't changed for three generations was the Okawa Fish Market. Every morning, varieties of succulent tuna and snapper, moonfish and swordfish had been caught and brought in, still thrashing, by the Okawa fishermen, first by her father- in- law, and her husband, Samuel, and then, as soon as they graduated from high school, her sons Wilson and Mano. Even now, when Nori stepped into the cool, dark market, the heavy sea salt fish pineapple mildew odor sent her right back to the first day its doors opened twenty- five years ago.

Nori had married Samuel Okawa right after they graduated from high school in 1904. They were both seventeen, and she became pregnant with Wilson almost immediately after they moved into his family's house close to the wharf, staying in Samuel's boyhood room. He began working full- time with his father as a fisherman, while she helped his mother at the family fish stand. Nori worried about Samuel going out to sea, taking the boat out in rough waters, confronting unexpected storms or unforeseen injuries. She nourished her courage with old deities and all the fishing lore passed down through generations, but her heart raced with every month's full moon, which carried another meaning: the currents would be rough in the morning. Unrelenting, unpredictable, unforgiving, the sea was governed by Kanaloa, the god of the ocean. Samuel lived by reading the weather signs, watching the currents and the cloud formations, a language Nori learned to decipher during her first year of marriage. It was a skill that was as suffocating and illuminating as it was frightening and life- saving.

Six years later she opened the fish market. Nori had just turned twenty- three in 1910 when she urged her husband's family to expand the simple lean- to that sold the freshest fish in Hilo down by the wharf into a larger market. Samuel and her in- laws resisted. "We're fishermen, why make more trouble, eh?" her husband had argued. Nori simply smiled and remained insistent. She'd given him two sons in the past five years, and was ready for something more than just changing diapers and waiting for her husband to return home each day bringing the rank smells of fish and sweat. No matter how much her husband protested, she knew he would eventually relent. Samuel was a good, hardworking man, whom she'd known and trusted since he was a boy sitting next to her at Queen Lili'uokalani High School, but Nori had all the business acumen in the family. Hadn't she been the one to put away enough money to buy the building and start the market in the first place?

Excerpt from The Color of Air by Gail Tsukiyama . Published by HarperVia. Copyright © 2020 HarperCollins.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more

Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket
    The Last Mona Lisa
    by Jonathan Santlofer
    In 1911, the Mona Lisa disappeared from its home at the Louvre in Paris. It took two years for the ...
  • Book Jacket: The Women of Troy
    The Women of Troy
    by Pat Barker
    Set in the liminal days following the Trojan War, The Women of Troy follows Briseis, who the reader ...
  • Book Jacket: The Magician
    The Magician
    by Colm Toibin
    Thomas Mann — the subject of this biographical novel by Colm Tóibín — is ...
  • Book Jacket: Cloud Cuckoo Land
    Cloud Cuckoo Land
    by Anthony Doerr
    Anthony Doerr's Cloud Cuckoo Land may be even more remarkable than his Pulitzer-prize winning work ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Morningside Heights
by Joshua Henkin
A tender and big-hearted novel about love in the face of loss, from the award-winning author of The World Without You.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Flesh & Blood
    by N. West Moss

    This beautifully written memoir offers insight, understanding, and joy.

Win This Book!
Win Sisters of the Great War

Sisters of the Great War by Suzanne Feldman

A powerful novel of two unconventional American sisters who volunteer at the front during World War I.



Solve this clue:

L Said, S M

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.