‘This Is Paradise’ by Kristiana Kahakauwila

This Is Paradise by Kristiana Kahakauwila, 2013

The magic trick:

Using three narrators to weave a complicated story of identity

We’re off to Hawaii this week, and we start with a stunning story.

So many of the stories we’re highlighting this year on our tour of the United States simply happen to be set in the state that’s being featured that week on the site. But “This Is Paradise” is special in that it’s not simply set in Hawaii, it’s about Hawaii.

It’s a fairly long story – about 40 pages. And I actually wasn’t sure what to make of its ambitious three-prong point of view narration until probably about page 36. It felt like a noble but maybe failed experiment for a while.

I was totally wrong. Stick with it, if you feel the same disorientation.

The story comes together in the end, and the three layered narration proves a remarkably powerful tool for commenting on the complicated notion of identity in Hawaii.

And that’s quite a trick on Kahakauwila’s part.

The selection:

Despite our tendency toward culinary laziness, our exhaustion is not allowed to overtake us this evening. Tonight, we’re celebrating. Laura just submitted her proposal for a LEED-certified resort on Maui, and we hear her firm will win the bid; Kiana Naone was promoted to Politics Editor at the Honolulu Advertiser; and Esther will take the lead on a high-profile murder case that all but promises her making partner in a year. After years of part-time jobs and student loans and late nights with a desk lamp’s yellow lights on our books, we’ve made it. Or are making it. Or are close to saying we will make it.

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