Thursday, August 10, 2023

Audio Book Review: Hula by Jasmin Iolani Hakes

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction/Audio Book
Pub. Date: May 2, 2023
Publisher: Harpervia
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, ""There's no running away on an island. Soon enough, you end up where you started." Hi'i is the youngest of the legendary Naupaka dynasty, only daughter of Laka, once the pride of Hilo; granddaughter of Hulali, Hula matriarch on the Big Island. But the Naupka legacy is in jeopardy, buckling under the weight of loaded silences and unexplained absences, most notably the sudden disappearance of Laka when Hi'i was a child. Hi'i dreams of healing the rifts within her family by becoming the next Miss Aloha Hula--and prove herself worthy of carrying on the family dynasty. She demonstrates her devotion to her culture through hula--the beating heart of her people expressed through the movement of her hips and feet. Yet she has always felt separate from her community, and the harder she tries to prove she belongs--dancing in the halau until her bones ache--the wider the distance seems to grow. Soon, fault lines begin to form, and secrets threaten to erupt. Everyone wants to know, Hi'i most of all: what really happened when her mother disappeared, and why haven't she and her grandmother spoken since? When a devastating revelation involving Hi'i surfaces, the entire community is faced with a momentous decision that will affect everyone--and determine the course of Hi'i's future. Part incantation, part rallying cry, Hula is a love letter to a stolen paradise and its people. Told in part by the tribal We, it connects Hawaii's tortured history to its fractured present through the story of the Naupaka family. The evolution of the Hawaiian Sovereignty movement is reflected in the journeys of these defiant women and their community, in whose struggle we sense the long-term repercussions of blood quantum laws and colonization, the relationship between tribe and belonging, and the universal question: what makes a family?"


Laka returns home to Hilo, Hawaii with a new daughter in tow and it makes her mother, Hulali, question the baby's parentage. The baby is too "white" in her family's eyes to be Hawaiian. Hulali is part of the native Hawaiian movement and she takes this seriously, especially after all Hawaii has been through and the USA's role in this. As Hi'i, Laka's daughter, grows up she realizes she doesn't quite fit in and has never been fully accepted in her community. She has grown up with rumors following her every move and by now, she is used to it. Hi'i shows an interest in learning hula as he mother and grandmother were important figures in the community for continuing the Hawaiian tradition of Hula; in fact, her mother was Miss Aloha Hula. As she learns Hula and expresses the rich Hawaiian history through its storytelling, it becomes even more obvious to her that she never really felt a part of all this. She has so many questions. What happened when her mother left Hilo and why is there a rift between her mother and her grandmother? As her grandmother pressures Laka to share Hi'i's birth certificate to prove her lineage, more secrets unfold. Hula by Jasmin Iolani Hakes is an important historical novel that not only covers Hawaii's tumultuous history but also captures the heart of its people. 

Hi'i's story is heartwrenching in Hula. I was immediately hooked and was rooting for her from the start. What she went through and the women before her will really tug on your heartstrings.
Hula also really highlighted the question of where do I belong. What makes up a family? I think many people, not just Hawaiians, can relate to this question that faces many members of society today. 

What I enjoyed most about
Hula was the fact that the story also included a collective voice that highlighted Hawaii's struggles and history. I found this to be very helpful as well as eye-opening. I knew some of it as I have been to Hawaii many times and learned as much as I could while I was there, but this book dives into so much more about how Hawaii was basically stolen and the USA's attempts to make it right were really disappointing. It broke my heart.

While I flipped back and forth between the audio version as well as the e-galley I received for review, I found myself gravitating toward the audiobook of
Hula. The narrator, Mapuana Makia, was outstanding. She brought the book to life with her dialect which perfectly captures the Hawaiian people. She tackled Hawaiian words so easily, it made the book much more fluid and felt more authentic to me. I highly recommend the audio version.

If you are looking for a meaningful historical beach read, look no further.
Hula is one powerful debut that not only captures the beauty of Hawaii but the struggles of its people, too. Have you read Hula? Is it on your TBR list? Let me know in the comments below.



  1. Very timely - I think a lot of people will be looking for a good read to help them learn more about Hawaii's history, especially considering the devastation there now.

    1. Right? I couldn't believe the timing of my review. I think this book would be great for anyone wanting to learn more about Hawaiian's perspective through the years and USA's involvement. Thanks for visiting, Angela.


I really appreciate your comments. Thank you!

Design by: Designer Blogs