Haleakala

It was actually my boyfriend who suggested I add a scene of Haleakala, which we saw when we were on Maui, to Finding ‘Ohana. (All of the photographs in this post were just a few of the ones I took while we were there.) I cannot express how happy I am that he made the suggestion and that I saw how wise he was for making it. Because now, I have to say, I think this is my favorite part of Finding ‘Ohana. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do.

 

Before the Thanksgiving when I had confessed to my parents, I used to go home to Michigan when the dorms closed for the summer. So the first summer I had no family was also the first time in my life I had nowhere to live.

I started looking for apartments a couple weeks before the dorms closed. “I don’t need anything that big,” I told Naali. We were looking over ads in the newspaper at the coffee shop where I had first seen her. “I mean, I am used to a one-room dorm. I just need something affordable. And I’d like to be able to be settled before we go on that trip with your family. I don’t want to have to come back to unpacked boxes.”

Naali nodded, gazing at the page but not reading it.

“Hey, Bun, have you thought at all about us living together?”

“What?” Yes, I know, very eloquent.

“You know, we’ve been together for over a year now. It wouldn’t be that unusual.” She nudged me playfully with her elbow.

The thought had never crossed my mind. I grew up thinking that I could not live with someone until we were married. Naali spent the night in my dorm room often enough, but somehow living together had not occurred to me. It would be like announcing our relationship to everyone. What would people think if two women applied for a one-bedroom apartment?

But how else would we be together? The one thing I never doubted was that I wanted to be with Naali, and eventually being together means living together. We could never get married legally, so I would always be breaking that rule anyway. And even once we considered ourselves “married,” we would always get the same reaction from landlords. What difference would it make to take that step now? All I should really ask myself was, “Are we ready?”

I looked up at Naali, at her kind eyes, her mouth that was always smiling, and I knew. We were ready.

We moved in as soon as Naali was done with beauty school, a full week before the dorms officially closed. And we were unpacked and settled with plenty of time before we took our first trip together.

We only flew to Maui, and we went with Naali’s family, but it still felt romantic, going away together. Her parents had been planning the trip to Haleakala for months, and they were so excited they were like children themselves.

“It’s the most beautiful sight in the world,” Kamea said, far too enthusiastic for how early it was. “It’s worth waking up early for.” With that, she swept the sheets from the hotel’s fold-out couch, leaving Naali and me no choice but to get up and get dressed.

It was four in the morning, still dark outside, although I guess that was the point. My body was screaming at me to lie back down, just for a moment. I stared longingly at the pillow, still warm from my head. It looked so comfy.

“It had better be worth it,” Naali mumbled, too low for Kamea to hear, and stumbled to the bathroom to change.

Once everyone was up, we piled in the rented car and Ihupani drove us toward one of the two mountains that, along with the valley between them, made up the island of Maui. ‘Apona and Hiapo were out like lights as soon as we started moving. My stomach was turning too much with the windy road to allow me to sleep.

“I wish you had brought something warmer to wear, Manaali‘i,” Kamea said from the front seat.

When we were packing, Kamea had warned us that it was freezing on the mountain. Not cold, freezing. I took that to mean I should wear two layers of pants, a light jacket, and my heavy coat which, until then, had been gathering dust in my closet. Naali laughed at me when she saw how much I was bringing. She was only wearing a light jacket, and had pajama pants rather than shorts to account for the freezing temperature. Instead of tennis shoes, like the ones I wore, Naali had flip-flops, or slippers, as she called them.

“How cold could it really be?” she’d asked as we packed. In the car, all she said was, “If it’s really that cold, Cinnamin and I can snuggle with a blanket. We’ll be fine.” She wrapped her arm around me and pinched my hip.

We spent a good hour in the car, winding up the mountain. Kamea worried we would not make it before the sun started to rise. Ihupani worried it would be too cloudy. I worried about my stomach that lurched back and forth with every curve in the road. I decided to pull out my phone and check how much further it was. As soon as I looked at the screen, I knew I’d made a mistake. I groaned. Naali asked me what was wrong. All I could get out was, “Pull over?” But there were no shoulders on the mountain road. I dug around the floor of the car and found a small brown bag that had held a pair of earrings Naali had bought the day before. I tossed the earrings at Naali and buried my face in the bag.

The situation would have been much worse without it, but that bag was not designed for what I had to use it for.

My face burned as the whole car listened to my retching. Even Hiapo and ‘Apona had woken up and could hear me. Finally I’d finished and tried to wrap the bag around itself so it would not drip. Hiapo passed me a few napkins Kamea had gotten from the glove box. My stomach felt better, but my face still burned. Naali rubbed my back. I had not noticed until then, but she had been rubbing my back the entire time.

“We’re almost there,” Ihupani said. His voice was so sympathetic. I looked up and saw that everyone in the car was worried about me. Their faces all reflected each other’s expressions, the same expression Naali had. Not disgust or embarrassment, but sympathy.

“Sorry,” I said in a small voice.

Everyone immediately jumped in to reassure me.

“No, no, don’t be sorry.”

“We just want you to feel better.”

“Don’t worry, we’re almost there.”

When we did finally get to the top of the mountain, I scrambled out of the car as soon as Hiapo and ‘Apona cleared the way. I tossed the bag in a trash can and breathed in the cool air.

It felt like home. The morning was crisp, only barely beginning to lighten at the edges of the sky. The air felt almost as though it had tiny icicles in it, but they felt refreshing as I breathed them into my lungs. It reminded me of winter mornings when I would walk to the bus stop before the sun was fully up. I did not even zip up my coat to shut out the cold, it was too refreshing.

“J-j-jeeezz.” Naali’s teeth chattered behind me. I turned and saw her still sitting in the car, hugging herself, the door open and letting the mountain air in. “It’s fr-r-reeezing!”

“You’re right,” said Kamea, snug in her warm coat. “In fact, I think that’s the exact word I used to describe it.”

Naali glared at her mom and grabbed the blanket ‘Apona had been sleeping with during the drive. I decided to wear my tennis shoes without socks so Naali could wear them with her flip-flops. She slid her arms in my coat, squeezing herself close to my body heat.

“It had better be worth it,” she said for the second time that morning.

“Hey, if you didn’t barf today, you can’t complain about it to me.” I smiled. The coldness of the mountain had raised my mood. “C’mon, let’s go find a good spot.”

We tried to walk a few steps connected by my coat, but Naali had to shift to be on my side before we could make real progress. She walked with one arm in my coat, the other wrapped in her blanket. It was still dark, but we followed the sidewalk and it led us to a cliff. Already there were crowds of people covering every inch of the guardrail. Naali wanted to watch from inside the small visitor’s center, but it was crowded too and we could barely see. So we went back out into the cold and had to stand on a rock to see over the crowd’s heads. I knew from Kamea and Ihupani’s description that past the cliff was a valley set deep in the mountain, and we had come all this way to see the sun rise over it. But when we stepped onto the rock, we could not see the valley at all.

It was as though we were standing on the lip of a bowl, and the bowl was filled with clouds. Everywhere we could see, for vast expanses of space, it was as though someone had filled everything with soft, billowy white. I could see now why Ihupani had worried about the cloudy day.

But as the first rays of sunlight appeared, all those worries melted away. The sun painted the clouds, so that each one it did not touch was filled with deep blue and indigo.

And the parts of the clouds the sun did touch, they turned bright with orange and pink dusting their sides. And the sky. The sky became yellow where it reached the clouds, setting the shadowed ones in intense contrast. Further up, the yellow melted, faded until it was almost as white as the clouds once were, until the white shifted to the brightest blue I’ve ever seen.

As the sun rose higher, every color became deeper, more intense. Even the clouds high above the sun, the ones which should have been out of its reach, even they were painted a vibrant pink. The clouds below us looked almost solid, like hills rolling across the valley, where I could see what must have been the other side of the mountain. But with the clouds covering everything, it looked more as though I were gazing at an enormous white waterfall tumbling into the valley.

I struggled not to look directly at the sun too long. It was so perfectly round as it peeked over the horizon that I felt more like I was watching a painting. It rose until it reached a cloud floating just above the others, and when the sun hid behind that cloud, everything surrounding it turned golden. The cloud itself looked black, and the valley became a deeper indigo than before, but the light above it looked like it was burning, like molten lava maybe. And within moments the sun appeared again.

We watched in silence, too awed to say anything. What could we say? Words could not describe the feeling we had, looking at this masterpiece.

With the beauty of the view, a song nudged its way into my mind. I had not heard it in almost a year, since last summer, the last time I had been to church with my family. The words had never meant much to me, but the tune, the music used to ring through me like truth. Standing on that mountain, gazing at Haleakala, which means The House of God in Hawaiian, breathing in the cold air that reminded me so much of home, with Naali’s shivering arms around me, that song came back to me and I felt something I had never felt before: connection to a higher power.

Encourage my soul, and let us journey on.

For the night is dark, and I am far from home.

Thanks be to God, the morning light appears.

The storm is passing over.

The storm is passing over.

The storm is passing over.

Halelu— Heleluja! Haleluja!

Temptation & Guilt

This excerpt is composed of flashbacks to Cinnamin’s ex-girlfriends, and the struggles she dealt with as she became the person who Naali could eventually fall in love with:

 

Naali was so different from the other girls I had been with. Of course, without them, without my restrictive life in Michigan, I might never have found my way to Naali. I might never have thought to go to Hawai‘i. To get as far away from home as possible, only to find that it had never been home.

Before I’d told Lucas the truth, I could ignore it. But once I’d said it out loud, I could not escape it. I worried constantly that someone would find out. With each of the first two girls I was with, rumors about me spread. My parents knew about both of them, but thought that we were only friends. When I asked if Bethany Wolf could spend the night, they were so happy that I finally had a girl friend. It strikes me as funny (although they might find it disturbing) that all those nights they were worried about Lucas taking my purity away, and yet they welcomed Bethany into our home, not knowing that she went straight to my bed.

The first time I saw Bethany, we were at a party. My parents had gone out of town for the weekend, leaving me to babysit Billy, so all I had to do was wait for him to fall asleep before I left. Lucas wanted to go to the party as an attempt to raise our social status at school, and I went to back him up. I wore my most revealing outfit: a white tee-shirt under a sleeveless dress that only went down to my knees. I had braided my hair and pinned it up in a bun, so it would not look so long. We had not been having much fun, since we did not know any of the other kids there. But then Bethany sat next to me on the couch and, without even introducing herself, kissed me. I heard cheers go through the crowd of teenage boys around us. It was my first real kiss, and it tasted like vodka.

After a few minutes, Bethany came up for air. I thought I saw her look at one of the boys who had been watching us, but that might just be my mind filling the moment in. She scribbled her phone number on my hand before staggering a few steps away and puking in a potted plant.

The next day I debated calling her. On the one hand, Mom and Dad were out of town and might never know she’d been there. But, on the other hand, Billy always woke up earlier than me in the morning, and he would have told our parents that someone had been over if he found out. I was forced to call and ask their permission, and they agreed much more readily than I had anticipated.

That night, after Billy was asleep, Bethany wasted no time before we were making out again.

“You know what would make this even hotter?” She crooned against my lips.

My stomach lurched. I worried she was going to suggest taking it further, which I was not ready for.

“Isn’t this hot enough? I think this is pretty hot. We should just keep doing this.”

“We should take pictures of us doing this.” She leaned over the bed and pulled a disposable camera out of her bag.

“Why?”

“So that, when I’m at home, I can look at them and really remember this.” She started kissing my neck and I gave in. I was in new territory, and it did not cross my mind that she might be anything but honest with me.

We only went to second base that night, and still I woke the next day feeling nauseated with guilt. I almost told Billy that we were not going to church, but I knew our parents would hear from the pastor if we were not there.

“‘Keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teaching,’” the pastor read the passage from Proverbs with a deep and foreboding voice.

My mind went back to lying in my bed with Bethany. In the darkness we were just two bodies struggling to get closer, with the occasional flash of a camera illuminating our sins.

“‘For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life, keeping you from the immoral woman, from the smooth tongue of the wayward wife.’”

Her tongue was smooth, smoother than I had expected. My face flushed at the memory of having it in my mouth. I glanced around, sure that every accusing eye in the church would be fixed on me. But they continued to face forward, most with a vacant expression, excepting a few who were listening fervently to the pastor’s words.

“‘Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes, for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life.’”

I tried to shut his voice out. I tried to shut the memories out. I did not understand why I wanted these things if they were so bad for me. I did not understand why I could not just fight against them. I did not understand what was wrong with me.

“‘So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.’”

My parents trained me well. I knew that I was not supposed to be the way I was. I feared getting caught. But even when I thought there was no way for my parents to find me out, the guilt still gnawed at my brain until I wanted to claw it out.

What my parents never stuck around to see, however, was how peaceful I was once that guilt was gone. Naali was so at ease with herself, and she and her family were so at ease with me, that I was able to accept that there was nothing wrong with me after all. It bewildered me, at first, that they could be so comfortable knowing that their daughter slept with women. But once I was used to it, I was just jealous. Every act of kindness they showed us turned me more against my own mother and father. I began to hate them, and so I stopped caring what they would think of me when I told them the truth.

While I was in high school, though, the one thing I worried about more than anything was that the truth would somehow make it to my family. The Monday after Bethany spent the night, I was called into the principal’s office. I opened the office door to see Bethany already sitting in a chair facing him.

“Can one of you girls tell me what these are?” Principal Howard asked when I was seated next to Bethany. He slid three small, white, rectangular sheets across the desk.

Bethany just shrugged. I reached for them and flipped them right-side-up. Almost immediately I turned them over again, face hot. I looked at Bethany in disbelief.

“What did you do?”

She shrugged again.

“Miss Wolf was passing these photographs around in her algebra class. I would like to know what, exactly, they are doing in my school.”

“I wasn’t passing them around,” Bethany countered, “I was just passing them to Matt.”

“They had to make it past fifteen other students before they got to Mr. Adams.” Principal Howard looked mad now. His face was bright red, but I suspected not as red as mine.

“Why?” I could not even look at Bethany anymore, choosing instead to study my hands intently. I used my fingernails to make half-moon shapes in my skin and focused on that pain instead of the prickling behind my eyes.

“Matt’s into girl/girl. I’m into Matt. So when you totally went for me at the party on Friday, I thought this could get his attention. He’s super hot. If you want to join, I’m sure he’d be down.” She grinned.

I dug my fingernails deeper into my skin, trying to block out her words. But the tears I had been holding back spilled down my cheeks. I could not bear to look at Principal Howard; I did not know how Bethany could, after saying those things in front of him.

“Miss Wolf, you can wait in the hallway. I’d like to talk to Miss Smith alone for a moment.” When the door closed behind Bethany, Principal Howard continued, “I’m sorry, Miss Smith. I assumed you were both responsible for the photographs being passed around. Otherwise I would have spoken to you separately.”

I must have been just as invisible to the principal as I was to my fellow students. How else could he have thought that Ethelfleda Smith, quiet outcast, could have been responsible for something like that? I had never even had detention before.

“I’m afraid I will have to talk to your parents about this. I’ll call them this afternoon to set up a conference.”

My head snapped up. “No, you can’t.”

“I don’t have a choice. These photographs could potentially be considered child pornography.”

I felt like he had knocked the wind out of me. His words were as powerful as if he had used a fist.

“There’s no way around discussing them with your parents.”

“You don’t get it. They’ll kill me. I’m not exaggerating – they will kill me.” My stomach hurt so badly I wrapped my arms around it, trying to squeeze it into submission.

Principal Howard’s face told me clearly that he thought I was just being a typically melodramatic teenage girl. He picked up the phone on his desk and dialed; I saw my life flash before my eyes.

“There’s no answer.”

My tears fell more rapidly with my relief. “They’re out of town.” In my panic I had completely forgotten.

Principal Howard frowned as he replaced his phone on the hook. “Well, I’ll have to speak to someone. When will they be back?”

I wrung my hands and considered the question. I knew my parents were coming home the very next day. I had been able to reach them all weekend. I knew that Principal Howard could easily call them at their hotel that day, and set up an appointment to discuss my doom before the end of the week. And so I did something that would save me, but that would also cause me even more crippling guilt: I lied.

“They won’t be back for weeks. But Lucas Lawson’s parents have been watching over my brother and me. I’m sure they could stand in.” I did not know what I was saying until I heard the words leave my lips. I had no idea whether they would tell my parents or not. But it was already too late. Principal Howard called them and they were in his office as soon as school was out that day.

Lucas and I waited in the hallway. He rubbed my back and told me jokes as I held my head in my hands. When Lucas’ parents finally came out of Principal Howard’s office, they walked us to their car without saying a word.

I got a lecture that night about how careless and immature I had been. Mr. and Mrs. Lawson did not say anything about the fact that the other person in the photographs was a girl. Lucas said it was because they had never encountered anyone like me, had never questioned what the church told them. They must have had trouble connecting the evil people our pastor warned us about with the girl who had been their son’s best friend since kindergarten, the quiet girl who always said “please” and “thank you” when she came to visit. They told me that they had promised Principal Howard that they would tell my parents as soon as they came back into town, but they never did.

Mom and Dad might have noticed how quiet I was for the next couple weeks after they came back from their trip. I felt that I could not face them. I felt like an intruder in my own house. And after word got out about the photographs, school was no longer a refuge. People stared and whispered when I walked down the halls. I caught one word in undertones more than others. It was a word that I never allowed myself to repeat, even in my thoughts. I finally knew how Lucas had felt all those years, and I wished I could go back to being invisible. There were many days that he and I spent at the coffee shop down the street rather than subjecting ourselves to their torture. I was always sure to keep my grades up so my teachers would not call and tell my parents that I had been playing hooky.

I would not have been able to survive if I had not had Lucas. Being with him was the only time I could be myself, the only time I was not overwhelmed by guilt and worry. That is, until my senior year, when a new girl came to our school.

#

When Nicole started at my high school, she and I clicked right away. She was open and friendly, making up for my need to be left alone. I met Nicole on her third day at our school, since I had spent her first two days at the coffee shop with Lucas. During lunch she just came and sat down right next to me and introduced herself. We became inseparable. She told me later that she had singled me out because she had heard the rumors about me. Nicole was from California and was used to having an entire community of out teens at her high school. In her mind, finding me was the first step to creating a similar community at our school. The community ended up being the two of us and our allies: Lucas, Nicole’s sister, Krissy, and Krissy’s new boyfriend, Brian.

I remember how terrified I was to ask my parents’ permission to go camping with Nicole. I worried that they would notice how much time I spent with her and become suspicious.

“Heavenly Father, please bless this food and bless all of us – please keep us from giving into our evil temptations. And please help us to remember that it is only by your grace that we are able to live and eat this meal. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Billy and I knew not to begin eating until the prayer was over. But even after the words had left Dad’s mouth, I was too nervous to eat.

“So Nicole invited me to go camping with her family this weekend. Would that be okay?” I forced myself to speak casually.

“Who is going?”

“Just Nicole, her sister, Krissy, and her parents.” I crossed my fingers under the table, trying not to think of Brian and Lucas camping with us or of Nicole’s parents reveling in their teenager-free house.

“How long will you be gone?”

“Just until Sunday afternoon.”

“You’re going to miss church?”

“No, of course not. I can come back early Sunday morning.”

“All right, Ethelfleda, you can go. But we’ll have to talk to Nicole’s parents about it first.”

“They’re already up there. Nicole, Krissy, and I are meeting them there after school on Friday,” I recited the excuse Lucas and I had practiced. “But they wrote a letter for you, telling you where we’ll be and everything.” I knew this plan would never have worked if my parents had not already met Nicole’s parents, but I still was not sure it would be enough.

After dinner Dad looked over the letter Nicole had forged earlier that day, and agreed to let me go, as long as I was back in time and looking presentable for church on Sunday.

I made sure to bring my lucky red backpack, which worked the first night (although it’s luck must have taken a break for the second).

That weekend was the best of my life up until then. Nicole and I had a small tent to ourselves, and we enjoyed our privacy to its fullest extent. Somehow, I did not feel guilty afterward.

The next night, however, brought my giddiness back down. We were sitting around our campfire, enjoying the last few rays of sunlight coming through the trees. Krissy and Brian were catching small sticks on fire, blowing them out, and using the still-burning ends of the sticks to draw designs in the air. Nicole was on the other end of the campsite, getting the marshmallows.

“Guess what happened last night?” I whispered to Lucas.

He just looked at me inquisitively. I gave him a pointed look and could not keep from smiling.

“You didn’t—? With Nicole?”

I shushed him, but nodded nonetheless.

“That’s great.” Lucas remembered to whisper this time. “How was it?” He raised his eyebrows at me.

“Lucas, you can’t ask me that.” I swatted his arm. “But it was really—”

The next thing I knew, I was in the dirt and Lucas was on top of me. He was using both arms to hit around my shoulders and neck. I found out later that when Krissy had blown the fire off the end of her stick, a spark had landed in my hair and ignited. Lucas had tackled me to the ground before I had even felt the heat from the fire as it quickly spread closer to my face. If it had not been for Lucas, I could have been horribly burned. But because he acted so quickly, my hair was the only casualty.

Of course, I could not tell my parents that, since they did not know Lucas was on the camping trip. So I returned home, hair suddenly falling only a few inches past my chin (although the longest chunk reached as far down as my shoulder blades). My parents were furious. Especially because we still had to go to church. Mom did her best to tie my hair back, but I nonetheless earned plenty of pointed looks from the other members of the church. We went to a salon that afternoon so it would not look so ragged, and the stylists told us that it might never grow back. I found myself not being so upset by this information. All that hair was heavy, and it felt good not to have its weight on me anymore.

As the edges were cut away, an actual style began to take shape. I stared at the mirror as my face stopped being one of a pathetic, shy little girl, and turned into the face of a girl with attitude. The stylist used a blow-dryer to flip out the ends, and even wearing my most modest dress, I looked like a different person. I looked like a movie star.

Nicole could not resist me.

#

But my honeymoon period with Nicole did not last. Once we started holding hands in the hallways at school, the whispered rumors stopped being whispered. Anonymous students complained to the principal, who made a new school rule that same-sex couples could not show public displays of affection because it was distracting in our learning environment. I started getting threatening phone calls. Every day I worried that someone else in my family might accidentally answer one of those calls intended for me.

I could tell the pressure was starting to get to Nicole. I had been dealing with it for almost two years by that point, but Nicole was used to a school with teachers who stood up for her. She started taking her anger out on me, snapping at me for little things that had never bothered her before, and turning every argument into a fight over whether or not I should tell my parents the truth about us.

“When are you going to come out to your parents?”

I nearly choked on the sandwich Mom had packed for my lunch.

“They are going to find out sooner or later, especially with all these idiots heckling us. If you tell them before they hear it from somewhere else, you’ll be much better off.”

“They’ll kick me out, Nicole. What, am I going to come live with you?” I tried to laugh it off, but my question came out sounding much more accusatory.

“You know, if you didn’t hate yourself, maybe these other kids wouldn’t hate you so much. Maybe they’d leave us alone.”

“I don’t hate myself.” But I did not believe it.

“You do. That’s why you’re so nervous around everyone. You’re scared they’ll hate you as much as you do.”

“Back off, Nicole.” Lucas came to my rescue.

“No. I’m sick of this. I can’t take it anymore. Why are you happy just lying down and letting people push you around? Tell them who you are.”

“I can’t.” My voice was small, directed at my uneaten sandwich on the table.

“Then I can’t either.”

Nicole walked away. Her parents transferred her to a private school after that, and I never saw her again.

“Normal”

I’ve been getting into a TV show called The New Normal.

The show follows a surrogate mother (as well as her own awkward-aged daughter and closed-minded grandmother) as she carries the baby of a gay couple. While it’s both funny and heartwarming, it is also a little too nail-on-the-head. Every chance they get, the writers are pushing forth their agendas through the mouths of their characters.

There’s nothing wrong with this, to an extent. On the one hand, these things need to be said. Homophobia is accepted for some people because they don’t think of it as discrimination, and the only way to stop that is to heighten awareness of it. On the other hand, however, is a believability factor. Most average people are not as forthright or as articulate about their beliefs outside of a prepared speech or a college classroom.

Well, the other day I found a great alternative: That’s a Wrap by Liz Borino. This book is the third in a fantastic series. I will sing this author’s praises all day long. She is a legitimately good writer, who happens to write erotica, which is difficult to find when a lot of good writers don’t want to do erotica and a lot of erotica writers are not exactly the best.

Anyway, this series follows a gay couple in the BDSM lifestyle, and the reason I am bringing them up is a great line from one of the main characters, Zack.

The couple is trying to prove to a social worker that they’re “normal,” and when it is Zack’s turn to talk to her, he prefaces by saying, “I haven’t the slightest idea how to prove I’m normal. I’m not a washing machine cycle.”

I absolutely loved this. This is how you state your beliefs within fiction. Instead of going on a rant about what normal means, and instead of merely claiming to be normal himself, Zack instead points out the flaw in our reasoning for labeling anyone “normal.” Sure, a washing machine cycle can be normal, but who are we to label people the same way?

In two seemingly flippant sentences, Borino achieved a solid argument without making her characters seem unnatural.

If you want to read this series, which I highly recommend, start with the first book of the series, Action.

Paradise?

For a while I have wondered if Finding ‘Ohana should deal with more than just sexual orientation when it comes to minorities. Class and race, for instance. The book handles the differences between Cinnamin’s culture and Naali’s, but not necessarily their race differences. And class is not mentioned because, let’s face it, that makes things easier for a writer. And, although I wondered if I should include these issues, I did not know how to do so in the context of the story.

But I recently met someone who is part Hawaiian, whose mother grew up in Hawai’i, and she helped me understand a little better.

First of all, she told me that there is a lot of racism in Hawai’i. The term “haole,” which Naali’s sister uses once, can be lighthearted, but it can also be a racial slur. In fact, many of the natives in Hawai’i have a very negative view of white people. While I don’t necessarily want Naali’s immediate family to hold these views (because of the purpose they serve for Cinnamin in comparison to her own family), I have decided that it should be addressed rather than ignored.

No one is perfect. So, it stands to reason that some of Naali’s extended family could very well be a little racist. Since Cinnamin is already dealing with feelings of being an outsider around Naali’s family, the extended family at the funeral glaring at her super-paleness would make an awful situation that much worse.

 

 

As far as class goes, I had never known that there is such a problem with poverty in Hawai’i, or that many Native Hawaiians are homeless.

This is not the paradise that most depictions of Hawai’i would have us believe.

Upon doing some research, I found that only 50.6% of Native Hawaiians have high school degrees. This is a higher percentage than the state of Hawai’i, as a whole, but that is reversed when looking at the percentages of college attendees and graduates:

Again, this has inspired me to include a more realistic backstory for Naali and her family. Naali does go to some college, which is where she and Cinnamin first meet. She does not graduate however, nor did she ever plan to. Her brother, Hiapo, finishes college by the time the book is over. ‘Apona, the baby of the family, begins college by the end of the book, and it is unclear of whether or not she plans to graduate or what she plans to do with a degree. Their mother, Kamea, is a retired nurse. But, given the statistics,  Kamea was probably the first person in her family to attend college, let alone graduate. Naali’s father, Ihupani, has been a physical laborer his whole life, and he received his GED after the birth of his first daughter, Manaali’i.

I feel that this is a better balance of realistic education within Naali’s family while showing a positive look toward the future. Just because there are less-than-ideal statistics now, it does not mean that they must always be that way.

Anyway, I don’t want to give too much away just yet, but stay tuned and I may just post a revised (yet again) excerpt or two.