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.