Category Archives: Pacific Islander

Red: A Haida Manga by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas

“Once upon a time this was a true story …” Thus begins the tragic story of Red, a young orphan boy who has no one but his older sister Jaada in the world. But one dark night, even that connection is severed when the two are attacked, and Jaada disappears into the night, seemingly forever.

As Red becomes a young man, he rises to become the village local leader, fueled by his ever-seething anger over his childhood loss. When he learns that his sister is indeed still alive, allegedly living happily in a nearby village, he devises an elaborate plan to attack her captors and finally set her free. But violence is never the answer to conflict, and death and destruction inevitably ensue.

The epic story of wrongful revenge is not particularly new, but the presentation here is uniquely unforgettable. Writer/artist Yahgulanaas ingeniously combines the art of his native culture, the indigenous Haida Nation of the Pacific Northwest coastal islands, with contemporary manga formatting to create a hybrid art form he’s coined as ‘Haida manga,’ “… a complex of images – a composite,” he explains.

“I welcome you to destroy this book, I welcome you to rip the pages out of their bindings, following the layout provided … ” Indeed, each of the pages, laid out side-by-side in a grid of six panels across by three panels down, all together comprise a spectacular larger picture. Luckily, no destruction is necessary: the book’s last two pages provide an overview, as does the back side of the book’s jacket, printed a bit larger.

To see to believe. The final effect is one of those pure gasps of wonder.

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2009

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, ..Young Adult Readers, .Fiction, .Graphic Novel/Manga/Manwha, Canadian, Pacific Islander

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama

dreams-from-my-fatherThe inaugural post for a historic inaugural year!

While finding out so much more about our first African American president, you can also discover his Asian Pacific American cultural heritage, as well. He was born in Hawai‘i, his father-figure ages 4-6 was an Indonesian man, Lolo Soetero, who would eventually become his stepfather, he lived in Indonesia fitting right in with the locals during formative years 6-10, has a hapa Indonesian American sister, Maya Soetero-Ng, who is herself married to a Chinese Canadian, learned Indonesian in six months, and returned to Hawai‘i to finish his pre-college education at Punahou School. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Of course, the book has so many memorable characters and stories to offer. The preface to the latest re-issued edition is a heart-breaking homage to his late mother. The memories of his maternal grandmother are especially wrenching with the realization that she passed away just before she could witness her beloved grandson’s victory as the 44th U.S. President. And his experiences in Kenya with his absent, late father’s side of the family are both comedy and tragedy combined.

Tidbits: The audible version of the book, which Obama himself reads, is quite the experience – that voice makes you believe he’s personally telling you his stories. The final track is a bonus: his 2004 Democratic Convention keynote address as the good Senator from Illinois, thumping for John Kerry and John Edwards. But if you take out those names, that speech still remains eerily now – war, economic woes, still too much inequity. Now that he’s the one who’s moved into 1600 Pennsylvania … ‘Yes, we can,’ and ‘Yes, we will!’

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 1995, 2004 (re-issued with new preface)


Filed under ..Adult Readers, ..Young Adult Readers, .Audio, .Nonfiction, African American, Indonesian, Indonesian American, Pacific Islander, Pan-Asian Pacific American, Southeast Asian, Southeast Asian American

The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera

Whale RiderThe captivating inspiration for the award-winning film of the same title about 8-year-old Kahu, who must convince her great-grandfather that females can carry on ancient Maori traditions just as well – if not better! – than the too-stubborn men.

Review: “New and Notable Books,” AsianWeek, August 1, 2003

Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2003 (paperback re-issue)

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, ..Middle Grade Readers, ..Young Adult Readers, Australian, New Zealander, Pacific Islander