Ask a bookseller

Ask a Bookseller: ‘Hula’ by Jasmin ‘Iolani Hakes

Ask a Bookseller Podcast
Ask a Bookseller

On The Thread’s Ask a Bookseller series, we talk to independent booksellers all over the country to find out what books they’re most excited about right now. 

Jhoanna Belfer of Bel Canto Books in Long Beach, Cal., recommends the novel “Hula” by Jasmine ‘Iolani Hakes.

Jhoanna calls it a “gorgeously written family saga” offering an “insider look” at Hawaii. The lyrical writing incorporates Hawaiian place and family names, and if you love audiobooks, she says this one makes for excellent listening. 

Jhoanna says: There are three generations steeped in the tradition of hula, and they’re wrestling with what it means to be Hawaiian and how to preserve and pass on that heritage.

cover of a book that reads hula
"Hula: A Novel" by Jasmin 'Iolani Hakes.
Courtesy of HarperCollins

Hakes delves deeply into questions of sovereignty, cultural ownership and self-determination. It definitely also deals with family expectations, and trying to find your place in a family that is highly regarded in your community, and trying to stand out as an individual, while also taking pride in being part of that heritage. 

And it really leads you to question your own responsibilities as a tourist and a traveler. The beginning of the book is kind of a Greek chorus in the third person plural. And it opens with letting you know point-blank that this is not the book that you think it is.

This is not the Hawaii that you think you know. This is an insider's look. A peek behind the curtain, so to speak.

— Jhoanna Belfer