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For the spring season of the book, da Shop, a Kaimuki bookstore, had scheduled community events to launch Big Island-hailing Kawai Strong Washburn’s debut novel, “Sharks in the Time of Saviors,” and Vicky Heldreich Durand’s memoir, Honolulu resident, from her late mother, “Wave Femme: The Life and Struggles of a Surf Pioneer.”
But when the coronavirus stay-at-home order was issued for Honolulu on March 23, da Shop closed its doors and canceled its events. As Amazon removed the priority from shipping books to essential goods, book festivals and author tours were canceled around the world and US book sales fell by 10 %.
“I’m sad that I can’t go out,” said Washburn, 40, who lives in Minneapolis with his wife and daughters. “My father, a music teacher at Honokaa High School (Washburn’s alma mater), was (also) going to be in Oahu with his student trip in a jazz band.”
But the good news, he added, is that he will be able to appear by video conference.
“Virtual author’s book presentation events will be taking place – Kawai and Vicky are at the top of the list,” said David DeLuca, Publishing Director at Bess Press, owner of da Shop.
“Our internal joke logo is’ Buy local… no need to go to Amazon, brah! ”Said Company President Buddy Bess, noting that these first two books are intensely local and rooted in places of deep historical and cultural significance, from Durand’s Makaha Valley to The Waipio Valley of Washburn.
They are also written by writers with a cause: Washburn explores the dispossession, impoverishment, and healing prospects of Native Hawaiians, while Durand shares how his mother fostered women’s independence in sport, work and at home.
Surfing, which she started at 40 in Waikiki, freed Betty Pembroke Heldreich Winstedt: she divorced her cheating and domineering husband and moved to Makaha, where she surfed big waves alongside George Downing, Buffalo. Keaulana and Peter Cole, who have become lifelong friends of the family.
She placed second in the first women’s competition at the Makaha International Surfing Championships, won the first women’s world title in Peru, worked full time, raised two daughters, remarried and, after the death of her husband, lived alone in her cottage by the sea, making pottery and writing haiku, until her death in 2011 at the age of 98.
In the late 1950s, Winstedt also befriended 7-year-old Rell Sunn, the future surfing champion and “Queen of Makaha” who, 40 years later, while dying of cancer. breast, paid a farewell visit to Winstedt’s house.
“Women’s surfing has grown so big and so far; it’s wonderful that Carissa Moore is going to represent Hawaii at the Olympics, ”said Durand in an interview in Waikiki, where in 1952 she, her sister and her mother shared a first surf lesson, while swimming in the waters bright and clean from a Queen’s beach. emptied by the coronavirus park closure rules.
“When we surfed there was no money in it,” added Durand, 79, who at 17 beat both his mother and defending champion Ethel Kukea to win the 1957 Makaha contest. , “and today there is no mention of Mother, Ethel or me; we have been forgotten by the history of surfing.
Not anymore: “Wave Woman” is a timely red flag.
Speaking by phone from Minnesota, Washburn, who has not lived in Hawaii since leaving for college in Portland, Ore., Said writing “Sharks in the Time of the Saviors” was a journey of discovery. self.
“I never really felt at home on the continent,” he said. “And I (finally) realized how much it came from being from the islands, how attached I was to the islands.”
When he returned to visit his family, “it sparked all of these emotions and a better understanding of the uniqueness, the incredible place that the islands are,” Washburn said. “I recognized their power and majesty.”
Although he is of African-American-Caucasian descent, he chose to write from the perspective of native Hawaiian-Filipino characters because, “I wanted this to be a novel about a family and mythology and the unfortunate history of colonization in the islands, “he said.
This required him to “go into the Kanaka Maoli part of this experience, speaking from (their) point of view,” he added.
Washburn’s novel is dedicated to his grandmother, who once a month drove him 40 miles from Honokaa, which did not have a bookstore, to Hilo to buy a book.
Honokaa did have a library, however, which the librarian remembered when he stopped by years later with his daughter.