A powerful history of Hawaii, 'Paradise of the Pacific'

'Paradise of the Pacific' by Susanna Moore
'Paradise of the Pacific' by Susanna Moore
Courtesy of FSG

The history of Hawaii is sometimes buried beneath leis and palm trees. Visitors pay more attention to the beaches than the culture.

But Susanna Moore's new book "Paradise of the Pacific: Approaching Hawaii," explores the fascinating historical conflicts that gave rise to the islands as we know them.

Moore, who was raised in Hawaii, starts with the earliest arrivals — migratory birds — and follows the islands' changing population through to the 1800s. In particular, she focuses on the late 18th century, when the island's royalty clashed with new arrivals. Missionaries brought competing religions. Diseases and invasive species spread. But it's not a simple narrative of colonization.

Publishers Weekly called it "a fascinating and well-balanced look at how a unique culture came to be and the heartbreaking manner of its end." In September, the book made the longlist for the National Book Award for nonfiction.

Moore joined MPR News' Kerri Miller to discuss her book and the rich history of one of the world's most popular destinations.

To hear the full interview with Susanna Moore on "Paradise of the Pacfic," use the audio player above.

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