Novelist capturesBy Cynthia Oi
essence of Hawaii
AS a writer, Lois-Ann Yamanaka insists her voice is her own, but as an island-born author, many join in her chorus. While the acclaim Yamanaka has received from the literary world is important, the recognition from Hawaii readers of a world closer to their own has a greater significance.
"She embraces the language and stories of the people of Hawaii," says Marie Hara, a fellow writer and University of Hawaii-Manoa English instructor. "She is increasing her voice from the local to the universal."
Yamanaka has published four novels: "Wild Meat and Bully Burgers;" "Blu's Hanging;" "Heads by Harry;" and "Name Me Nobody." Her collection of poetry, "Saturday Nights at the Pahala Theatre," was published in 1993.
At 38 years old, she has collected two Pushcart Prizes for her poetry, a Lannan Literary Award, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer's Award, the 1993 Elliott Cades Award for Literature and a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship in 1994.
She has also collected controversy. In 1998, "Blu's Hanging" was criticized because of her portrayal of a sexual predator of Filipino descent. Although pierced by the conflict, Yamanaka refuses to be cowed. "If I thought about all my social responsibilities when I was creating something, I'd be so stuck," she has said.
Says Hara, "She has opened up a place for Hawaii writers that didn't exist before. She has the pulse, the beat on what life is like here."