Get out a frosty drink and put on your flip flops, folks. I have a special Hawaiian treat for you today! My fellow JFP author Lehua Parker is here to guest blog about her new book One Boy No Water, the first installment in the Nihui Shark Saga. (Nihui shark means maneating shark, I do believe.) I reviewed the book here a few days ago. It’s a good middle grade read that adults will enjoy as well.
Now sit right back in your Barcalounger and enjoy finding out more about Auntie Lehua, plus and insider’s knowledge of Hawai’i!
Aloha, Jennifer! Thanks for letting me drop by to answer a few of your questions about my MG/YA novel One Boy, No Water, book one in the Niuhi Shark Saga. It’s available from Barnes & Noble and Amazon in hardback, trade paperback, and ebook.
You live in the mountains of Utah, about as far different a climate from the North Shore as possible. What made you choose to write about Hawaii?
At first glance, I’m the last person anyone would suspect of being Hawaiian, but it’s true. My father’s family has been there since the first human spotted an island on the horizon. It’s because I live in the mountains of Utah that I started writing a series set in Hawaii. Totally homesick and beyond weary of snow, ice, and having to wear shoes, I sat down at my computer one day and dreamed about the place I wanted to be. It gets me through a lot of winter days.
Much of OBNW is in Hawaiian Pidgin. Give us a rundown on pidgin. Did you learn it as a child?
Pidgin is the secret language of Hawaii. It grew organically out of all the languages immigrants spoke, developed first as a trade language on the docks and plantations, but soon evolved into its own language with grammar rules and vocabulary distinct from the foundation languages. Most people think Pidgin is broken English; it’s not. But I admit it sometimes sounds that way, particularly as more English words are added to Pidgin vocabulary. Linguists say the structure is Hawaiian and most Pidgin words are merges or adaptations of foreign words into Hawaiian.
Tourists seldom hear real Pidgin on their vacations. To work in the tourist-biz, it’s a requirement to speak English well. (Or Japanese. But I digress.) Step off the beaten path however, and you’ll discover that most conversations among locals, among family and friends, are in Pidgin. The characters in One Boy, No Water talk like people in Hawaii do when the cameras aren’t rolling. I actually down played the Pidgin because I wanted people not from Hawaii to get a taste of it without forcing the whole luau at them at once.
I first learned Pidgin in elementary school on Maui where everybody was one generation or less from plantation life, so this dialect of Pidgin had far fewer English words that what’s more commonly spoken today. Pidgin was all anyone spoke, including teachers, shopkeepers, and neighbors. My parents refused to speak it at home because they wanted us to learn proper English. Now that my parents and siblings have all left Hawaii, we sit around the kitchen table and talk in Pidgin. It confuses all the grandkids and spouses!
When I was a kid there was something shameful and lowbrow about speaking Pidgin, but as time marched on, this attitude is changing. Pidgin is as nuanced and rich as any other human language, and I hope people will get a sense of that in my books.
Whoa, horsey! Sorry, I’ll get off my high horse now!
Is there really a condition where a person can be allergic to water? If so, what is it called? How does this affect your character Zader?
Because you asked, I looked it up. It’s called Aquagenic urticarial and it’s very rare. It’s defined as a painful skin reaction resulting from contact with water. I also didn’t know it actually existed until ten minutes ago. (Spoiler alert!) Zader isn’t allergic to water. It’s something Uncle Kahana told everybody when Zader was found on the reef as an infant to keep him away from water and to explain what happens if he does get wet. Everybody understands hives and allergic responses—it’s the perfect cover. So if Zader isn’t allergic to water, what’s really happening? That info I’m keeping under my hat for now.
There’s a lot in this about the school system on Oahu. How common is it for middle schoolers to compete for placement at elite private schools? How do parents generally afford this?
In families that value education and consider it key to success, it’s very common for the kids to compete for placement in private schools, and the families sacrifice a lot to keep the kids there. I’ve seen situations where parents take second jobs and grandparents and other extended family members pool resources to meet tuition. Most, if not all elite private schools in Hawaii have endowments and offer a small number of scholarships to top students to help ease the tuition burden. The mere possibility of a scholarship is enough motivation for most families to do whatever they can to give their child the best possible chance.
While Ridgemont Academy is fictional, the opportunities, programs, and educational vision it describes are real. Schools like Ridgemont really do exist in Hawaii, sixth grade is the big application year, and the pressure is enormous. All of the kids in my immediate and extended family back through the generations went through this; some got in to the schools of their choice, some did not. It’s tough. To give you an idea of the level of competition, when I was in sixth grade I was told that there were over 2,000 qualified applicants for the four open spots. I got one of them. It changed my life and opened doors I couldn’t have opened alone. In Hawaii, when people ask you where you went to school, nobody is asking about your college years.
One of my favorite aspects of OBNW was the relationship between the Uncle and Zader. Tell my readers a little more about that, would you?
One thing to remember about family in Hawaii is that family is who you—and they—say it is. Kids call everyone they respect “Aunty” or “Uncle,” not just those related by blood. Cousin is another common term used to describe close friends of the same generation. Really close friends sometimes define their relationship as brother or sister, and call all the parents Mom and Dad. This is not an affectation. To name someone a family member is serious business and places obligations on both.
Trying to keep us out of red alert spoiler territory, what I can say is that Zader was purposely left on the reef specifically for Uncle Kahana to find. There is a blood connection through Aunty Lei. Uncle Kahana knows far more about Zader than he’s shared, and in One Boy, No Water he realizes he’s been shirking his responsibility as family mentor, his kuleana as kupuna, toward Zader. That’s the big reason why he starts to give the gang Lua lessons. Like most things in the Niuhi Shark Saga, Lua is more than what it appears to be on the surface; it’s more than simple self-defense lessons. Through Lua Uncle Kahana is trying to teach Zader control, control he desperately needs before—oops! Can’t say more.
Favorite Hawaiian Shave Ice flavor? Best place to get it?
I’m a boring traditionalist. My favorite is plain old strawberry, usually without a snowcap, azuki beans, li hing mui powder, or ice cream in the middle. However I am a stickler on the texture of the ice—it has to be creamy and smooth, not chunky at all—and the quality of the syrup, which should be very fruity and not too sweet.
Best place on ‘Oahu: Matsumoto’s in Haleiwa
Best place on Maui: Ululani’s in Lahaina, Kahului, and Kehei
Best place in Utah: Hokulia Shave Ice, Provo
Runner Up in Utah: Mo’bettah Steaks, Bountiful, Salt Lake City, and Logan
Lehua Parker is originally from Hawaii and a graduate of The Kamehameha Schools and Brigham Young University. So far she has been a live television director, a school teacher, a courseware manager, an instructional designer, a sports coach, a theater critic, a SCUBA instructor, a poet, a web designer, a mother, and a wife. Her debut novel, One Boy, No Water is the first book in her MG/YA series the Niuhi Shark Saga. She currently lives in Utah with her husband, two children, four cats, two dogs, six horses, and assorted chickens. During the snowy Utah winters she dreams about the beach.
NOW THAT YOU’RE CRAVING SHAVED ICE, FIND AUNTIE LEHUA ELSEWHERE ON THE WEB! (MAHALO!)
Facebook author page: www.facebook.com/LehuaParker
Goodreads: Lehua Parker