Honolulu by Alan Brennert
|“In Korea in those days, newborn girls were not deemed important enough to be graced with formal names, but were instead given nicknames, which often reflected the parents’ feelings on the birth of a daughter: I knew a girl named Anger, and another called Pity. As for me, my parents named me Regret.”
Jin, whose Korean family named her Regret, leaves behind her family and her familiar life in Korea to become a picture bride to a Korean man in Hawaii in 1914. She wanted to get an education and a better life. However, things did not turn out as planned. Her new husband is abusive and Jin realizes she must learn to make it on her own. Jin and the other picture brides tap into their entrepreneurial spirits to make a life for themselves in this new land. Through Jin’s eyes we also learn about the history of Hawaii.
Book Club Party Ideas for Honolulu
Hawaiian music is a must for your book club party for Honolulu. Some of songs mentioned in the book (and available for download from Amazon) are On the Beach at Waikiki and Hawaii Pono’i, as well as the Korean Arirang.
Below are some Hawaiian CD suggestions. ” Facing Future” by Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole remains one of the top selling Hawaiian albums in the world.
What to Wear
|Jin was a type of pioneer in the popularity of the “aloha wear market”. Your outfit for a book club party for Honolulu can include Hawaiian dresses – this pink one is my favorite. Finish off your look with a lei. In Honolulu, the leis were made of plumeria, carnation or jasmine blossoms.|
Decorating for a book club party for Honolulu is so fun because there are so many Hawaiian and luau party decorations out there. For the table setting I used a beach mat as the table covering and lined the table with a couple of hula skirts, but I found a variety of grass table skirts on Amazon which would be much easier to use. An example is below and you can see the rest of them by clicking here. I have included some other party supplies to complete the look.
Book Club Menu for Honolulu
|For cocktails, I recommend the Chi Chi, which is similar to a pina colada, but made with vodka instead of rum.|
“Hawai’i has often been called a melting pot, but I think of it more as a ‘mixed plate’ — a scoop of rice with gravy, a scoop of macaroni salad, a piece of mahi-mahi, and a side of kimchi. Many different tastes share the plate, but none of them loses its individual flavor, and together they make up a uniquely ‘local’ cuisine. This is also, I believe, what America is at its best — a whole greater than the sum of its parts.” (page 430).
I tried my hand at making Kimchi, a side dish made with cabbage that is usually served at every Korean meal. This is a very, very, very fragrant dish…the smell would blast anyone who opened the refrigerator. It you are not a fan of spicy food you might want to cut back on the red pepper. I also made Mandu Dumplings, which was served at the cafe Jin started.
There were many delicious desserts mentioned in Honolulu such as coconut cakes, mochi, korean pastries, chestnut cinnamon candies, and kulolo pudding but I could not resist making the Pineapple Cream Pie which was served at Jin’s wedding.
Here are some other menu ideas from Honolulu:
- Rice wine
- Guava punch
- Ginseng tea- ” to quiet one’s spirit, drive out fears and act as a general tonic for the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys”
- Bulgogi or “fire beef” (she made it with pork for Mr. Noh). Cut the meat into thin slices, steep in soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, chili pepper and red pepper paste. Marinate then grill.
- When Jin was invited to dinner at the house of her new Hawaiin friend, Ester, Aku (white fish) marinated in ginger, onion, soy sauce and chili peppers with cooked sweet potatoes and freshly baked pineapple pie was served.
- On Jin’s first date with Jae-sun he made spicy-hot eggplant kimchi, sesame balls filled with sweet red bean paste and raisins and naengmyeon, cold noodles with vegetables.
- Minnows grilled in miso sauce
Book Club Resources
Ratings at the time this post was published
|Goodreads: 3.89 stars (2026 ratings)|
|Amazon: 4.5 stars (111 ratings)|
|Barnes & Noble: 4.5 stars (96 ratings)|
|My Rating: 5 stars. I loved experiencing the history of Hawaii through the eyes of resourceful Jin. If there was such an award, I would nominate it for the best last sentence (don’t read it before you read the book…it will diminish the impact!)|
Discussion Questions for Honolulu
- Did you admire Jin for her courage in trying to find a new life in Hawaii or did you feel she was abandoning her family and her obligations to them?
- What do you think would have come of Jin had she stayed and fulfilled her duties in Korea?
- Which characters did you particularly admire or dislike? Why?
- Were the characters believable? Did Jin appear to have any faults? What were they?
- This is the story of a woman coming to America to find a better life. How does this story compare to others you have read about this subject?
- The chogak po, or patchwork cloths were a beautiful description of life (page 11). What would yours look like?
Purchase Honolulu at your favorite bookseller
Alan Brennert is the author of the best-selling historical novels Moloka’i and Honolulu, as well as the contemporary novels Time and Chance and Kindred Spirits. He has also written short stories, teleplays, screenplays, and the libretto of a stage musical, Weird Romance. His work on the television series L.A. LAW earned him an Emmy Award in 1991, and his short story “Ma Qui” was honored with a Nebula Award in 1992. Born in Englewood, New Jersey, he has lived since 1973 in Southern California. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from California State University at Long Beach, and also did graduate work in screenwriting at UCLA.
Named one of The Washington Post’s Best Books of 2009
Personal Insights, Favorite Quotes, etc…
My favorite quote is made in reference to the chogak po, or patchwork cloths. When Jin asked her mother why she made these patchworks, she replied “When we are young, we think life will be like a su po: one fabric, one weave, one grand design. But in truth, life turns out to be more like patchwork cloths – bits and pieces, odd and ends – people, places, things we never expected, never wanted, perhaps. There is harmony in this, too, and beauty.”
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