Wednesday, August 7, 2013

This is Paradise: Book Club

This post for the From Left to Write book club was inspired by This Is Paradise by Kristiana Kahakauwila, a collection of short stories that shares a view of Hawaiians few tourists ever experience. 

I learned about bibliotherapy the other day, and after reading the past 2 books for book club, I'm beginning to think it is a legit form of therapy. Bibliotherapy basically has you read books, combined with writing therapy, and it is supposed to help you resolve issues you may be dealing with at the time. There are actual bibliotherapists who will pick books out for you. But luckily, I've stumbled upon 2 great books without having to pay someone.

This month we read This Is Paradise by Kristiana Kahakauwila which is a collection of Hawaiian short stories. I've thought a lot about Hawaii over the past couple of months since it is my "happy place" and often my escape plan. No, I have never been. But I think if I ever do go, I may not come back. This collection was pretty eye opening to how Hawaiians view tourists, so maybe I might need to come up with a different plan...

One of the short stories is about For Making a Hawaiian Funeral Into a Drinking Game. Tomorrow marks 2 months since my own grandmother passed away, which has been on my mind a lot lately. Reading this short story, and seeing how a different culture and granddaughter processed her grandmother's death and a funeral hit hard.

When my grandmother become ill, we all went to see her to say our goodbyes. It is a 5 hour trip, 7 with my kids, so we didn't visit very often. When I heard she was in the hospital, my gut said to go immediately. So we did. Luckily she was still awake and was able to talk with us. After we went home, she slipped into a comatose state, and a week later passed away.

My granddad, mom, her brother and sisters, 2 of my cousins and baby K were all in the room when my grandmother passed. We circled around her and held her hands as she left this world. It's kind of a haunting memory, her taking her last breath. I don't think I ever will forget the sound of the last labored breath. I would want to die the same way, surrounded by my family, listening to them tell me they love me and it will be ok.

After my grandmother passed it was like the world was on auto-pilot. Everyone slipped into their roles of who was organizing what and I was just in shock. I stood by and just let the aunts tell me what needed to be done. Luckily I had 2 kids to attend to, or I may have ended up playing a drinking game. We had friends and family bringing food for every meal. Tons of homemade pecan pies, Bojangles big meals, Kings barbecue, more southern food than I would have liked...

In the short story, it was interesting reading all of the Hawaiian food that was brought. And basically the same story of how our family handled her death- minus the drinking. Our family and friends gathered around to tell stories about my grandmother, about the fun times before she became sick and lost her memory. Before the days she became frail and thin. Before the pain. I'm glad she can no longer feel the pain. I'm glad she is in heaven looking over us. 

Join From Left to Write on August 8 as we discuss This Is Paradise. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.


  1. So sorry that you lost your grandmother so recently. I think I share your experience of FL2W being a form of bibliotherapy! I was thinking a lot about my own grandmother reading that story!

    It sounds like your family gave your grandmother a beautiful gift of a peaceful and loving end-of-life passage. It's rough to witness death, but so wonderful that she was so enveloped by love and support.

  2. So sorry to hear of your loss. Hopefully you are able to keep those stories alive for years to come.

  3. Aloha e Michelle,
    When you wrote about Bibliotherapy I found myself saying, yes, yes! I had never heard of it before but it made perfect sense. I often feel I am in bibliotherapy when I'm reading Michael Ondaatje (and writing/responding afterwards).

    I hope you'll continue to think of Hawai`i as your escape plan. While it's true that there's a fraught relationship between tourist and local, I think one of the best aspects of Hawai`i is a genuine desire to have visitors experience the place deeply, to be touched by it, to breathe it and feel changed by it.

    And escape plans are so important to keep us going! ;)