More Big Happiness

Susan Schultz’s Tinfish Editor’s Blog features a great review of Mark Panek’s Big Happiness: The Life and Death of a Modern Hawaiian Warrior. The review comes in the later half of a nice, lengthy post on Susan’s fondness for the Windward side and memories of biking Okana Road, where Percy Kipapa was killed in 2005. Here’s how it starts–but read the entire post, “Grounded by Happiness,” for the full effect!

For some reason (a recent adoption? soon-to-be trip away from home? not yet bike-riding on Okana Drive?) I do not remember the murder of Percy Kipapa in May, 2005 on Okana Road. He had just come from a stop at the 7-Eleven across from the Hygienic Store. Even more strangely, I don’t remember the trial of his murderer a year later, a trial that was covered diligently by local media. So it was with a strange sense of a missing memory, one that ought to have firmly lodged there, that I read Mark Panek’s new University of Hawai`i Press book, Big Happiness: The Life and Death of a Modern Hawaiian Warrior. I am grateful for this book for many reasons: it is at once a loving elegy to the author’s friend, a history of Windward O`ahu since statehood (1959), an incisive piece of investigative journalism about land and water issues, development, and the crystal meth (ice) epidemic of the 1990s and 2000s. That epidemic struck all of Hawai`i–in fact, it struck many places like Hawai`i, where rural dreams run dry and the only way to make a living is to leave, join the military, hope to make it as an athlete–but it struck Kahalu`u particularly hard. It is also a book about Okana Road, about an area I know, however superficially, from the seat of my Specialized bike.

The Office for Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) radio show, Na ‘Oiwi ‘Olino, recently hosted a discussion of Big Happiness with Mrs. Priscilla Kipapa, Kevin Chang (OHA Land Manager), and the author. Listen to the broadcast here: