“It’s the ’Merican way of life,” Kenyei expounded. “’Merican children are not taught to have honor and respect for the elders, not even for their own parents. I’ve heard some of them calling their parents by their first names.”
            “You’re right, Kenyei,” Kama agreed, disconsolate. “The children in ’Merica are not being brought up properly. The sooner we’re under Japan, the better off our children will be. It’s getting so the Niseis don’t know they are Japanese anymore. They have funny names like Hah-ry, Ge-o-gie, Wi-ri-am...Only the other day, while walking down Market Street in Wailuku, I heard someone calling a Japanese boy ‘Rincon.’ Why, that boy looked no more like Ab-ra-ham Rincon than I look like Ge-o-gie Wa-shin-ton.”


“The treatment of the Japanese-American community during World War II is a well-known national disgrace. Yet the characters in Shirota’s novel break both the initial, enabling stereotype of an entire community of insidious fifth-columnists and the subsequent stereotype of an entire community of faultlessly patriotic and noble victims. Instead, he shows us a more complex reality in his portrait of Okinawan-Americans in Hawaii during and after Pearl Harbor. We see racism, and injustices, but also elders rooting for a Japanese invasion and victory. Meanwhile, their American-raised offspring are eager to prove their loyalty to the new country, in spite of the exploitation and persecution of their people—or simply, in a very American way, trying to ignore history and get on with their lives and loves. Shirota gifts us with an insider’s view of people struggling to define their identities in the crucible of the coming war, men and women sometimes flawed and sometimes virtuous—which is to simply say, human beings—who experienced world-changing events through the particular prism of their own emigrant history. In doing so, Shirota enriches and broadens our sense of the American experience and the many strands of which its tapestry is woven.” —Wayne Karlin, author of Wandering Souls: Journeys with the Dead and the Living in Viet Nam

For Kama Gusuda—the main character in Jon Shirota's classic novel—the morning starts like any other on his Maui pig farm. By the time the sun has set, however, Japanese fighter planes have filled the skies over Pearl Harbor, bringing war to the Pacific and trouble to the lives of immigrants in Hawai'i. The attack causes conflict among neighbors and within families, whose honor, loyalty and sense of tradition are tested as never before.


LUCKY COME HAWAII skillfully weaves together stories of lovers kept apart by their parents, an elder son faced with betraying his kin, and a wayward boy who struggles to have respect for his heritage. At the heart of LUCKY COME HAWAII is the moving story of an immigrant father and mother who strive to create a better future for their Hawai'i-born children. For older readers, this ground-breaking novel of Hawai'i at the beginning of World War II will evoke a time and place nearly forgotten. For younger readers, the novel will bring the experiences of Hawai'i's first Okinawans vividly to life.


Jon Shirota was born in 1928 in Peahi, Maui, the sixth child of immigrant Okinawan parents. A graduate of Brigham Young University, he published LUCKY COME HAWAII in 1965. Though it quickly became a national bestseller and was reprinted by Bess Press in 1985, the work has long been out of print. This newly revised edition makes Shirota’s memorable novel available again.

Three of Shirota’s award-winning plays and his essay "Dawning of an Okinawan" were recently published in VOICES FROM OKINAWA, a volume that also features June Hiroko Arakawa, Philip K. Ige, Mitsugu Sakihara, and Seiyei Wakukawa.

To go to Jon Shirota's page at the MANOA Okinawa blog, click here.



LUCKY COME HAWAIIWinter 2009 (Vol. 21, No. 2)192 pagesEdited by Frank Stewart