Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Bird of Another Heaven

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Bird of Another Heaven

by James Houston

Bird of Another Heaven by James Houston
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2007, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2008, 352 pages

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James D. Houston is the author of seven previous novels and a number of nonfiction works including Farewell to Manzanar, which he coauthored with his wife, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston. Since 1962, he and Jeanne have lived in Santa Cruz, within view of Monterey Bay, where they raised their three children. They currently live in a Victorian house once owned by Patty Read, a survivor of the Donner Party who appears in Houston's novel Snow Mountain Passage.

Houston says he had a similar experience to "Dan" when, after many years, he found out that his grandmother, "a very sweet Tennessee mountain fundamentalist Christian lady, born in the Appalachians in the 1880s" moved to Alabama in 1900 and married a half-Indian, half-Cherokee.

More about Houston, including a partial bibliography and interviews about Snow Mountain Passage and Bird of Another Heaven at BookBrowse.


Kalakaua (photo), the last reigning king of Hawaii, was born David La'amea Kamanakapuiu Mahinulani Nalaiaehuokalani Lumialani Kalakaua in 1836. Known as the "Merrie Monarch", he was king from 1874 to his death in 1891.

His predecessor, King Kamehameha V (descendant of Kamehemeha I, who conquered the Hawaiian Islands and established the Kingdom of Hawai'i in 1810) died in 1872 without naming a successor so, by constitutional law, a new king was appointed by the legislature. The contest was centered on two high-ranking chiefs, Kalakaua and William C. Lunalilo. Lunalilo won the popular vote overwhelmingly and was elected in 1873. However, a year later he died and Kalakaua was elected to replace him.

Kalakaua was a man of excesses, which were used against him to bring down the Hawaiian monarchy, but he was also responsible for bringing back the Hawaiian tradition of the hula which had been virtually erased by three generations of missionaries. In 1890, his health began to fail and he traveled to San Francisco on his doctor's advice, where he died in 1891. He and his wife had no children so his sister, Lili'uokalani (photo), succeeded him. She ruled for two years until she was overthrown.  Shortly after, the Republic of Hawai'i was proclaimed (1894). After spending some time under arrest, Lili'uokalani was released and lived as a private citizen until her death in 1917.

The Republic of Hawaii lasted until 1898, when the islands were annexed by the USA, becoming a US territory in 1900.  Statehood followed in 1959.

This article was originally published in June 2007, and has been updated for the April 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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