Books & Talks

Sarah Vowell Leis It On Us

Hear the NPR favorite break down Hawaiian history, or check out this week’s other literary events.

By Allison Williams March 28, 2011

Photo courtesy Bennett Mil.

Sarah Vowell reads from Unfamiliar Fishes March 28 at Town Hall.

You’ve already heard essayist Sarah Vowell if you’re an NPR fan (she was a regular on This American Life ) or saw The Incredibles (she voiced whispery Violet). After writing several books about Puritans and American history, Vowell went where all research nerds go—the beach. Unfamiliar Fishes traces the history of Hawaii from bloody unification to bloodless annexation by the U.S.; hear Vowell read from the book at 7:30 tonight at Town Hall; $5 tickets available at Or just book your tickets to Honolulu already, since Vowell’s fact-heavy chronicle is enough to inspire a visit. Here’s three good reasons from Unfamiliar Fishes to island-hop right now:

— On Kamehameha Day (June 11, so start planning!), Hawaii puts on floral parades to honor a native king who unified the islands back in 1790. Ol’ Kamehameha pulled that off by killing so many people on Maui, the dead bodies formed a human dam in a river. So…party time?

— Check out the state’s popular plate lunch: It’s a boxed meal that combines Japanese rice, American macaroni salad, and meat, like Polynesian roast pork or a hamburger patty topped with gravy and a fried egg. Vowell uses it as a metaphor for the various foreign influences on Hawaiian culture (the melting pot and all that), but mostly it sounds like a killer combo of chow. President Obama reportedly misses the meal out in D.C.

— Hawaii has America’s only royal palace, ’Iolani (you saw it as the police HQ on the old Hawaii Five-O). The country’s last queen, Liliuokalani, was locked up in a room there when the U.S. annexed Hawaii. It’s Manifest Destiny meets medieval fairy tale.

Also this week: Dan Savage and partner Terry Miller discuss their new book, It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying and Creating a Life Worth Living, tomorrow night at 7:30 at Town Hall. Then on Friday, April 1 at 7:30pm, the no. 1 author of the No. 1 Ladies Detective book series, Alexander McCall Smith, reads from his latest at the Seattle Public Library. Also that night, rue the comic indignities of parenthood at Third Place Books with blogger Jeremy Greenberg, who shares his collection Sorry I Peed on You: And Other Heartwarming Letters to Mommy. It’s free at 6:30pm at Third Place Books.

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