Hilo professor publishes modern day Hawaii book
University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Associate Professor Mark Panek published his third book, Hawaiʻi. The book is about the death of a U.S. senator and political patriarch, which leaves modern-day Hawaiʻi at a crossroads. Hawaiʻi touches upon many contemporary issues—education, crystal meth, prisoners sent to the mainland, class divisions, gambling and politics.
Award-winning novelist Chris McKinney calls Panek’s new novel “a much-needed contemporary answer to James Michener’s Hawaiʻi [that] takes Michener’s ‘golden men’ vision of racial harmony out back and beats it.” It is a book, McKinney says, “that should be read, re-read, and taught for years to come.”
UH alumnus Panek was named this year’s winner of the Elliot Cades Award for Literature in the emerging artist category. His prior work, Big Happiness, won the 2012 Ka Palapala Poʻokela Award for Excellence in Nonfiction.
Panek will be appearing at several events statewide, including Kauaʻi Community College’s Literature Festival on April 12, 5:30 p.m., and at Small Town Coffee in Kapa’a on April 13, 10 a.m. Hawaiʻi’s Honolulu launch is scheduled for April 19, 6 p.m. at Native Books in Ward Warehouse.
A nine-term U.S. senator and political patriarch is dead, leaving modern-day Hawaiʻi at a crossroads: crumbling public education at all levels, a crystal meth epidemic, Native Hawaiians getting shipped to Arizona prisons and class divisions so deep that even State Senator Russell Lee has to scramble to avoid eviction from his family’s dream home.
When an illegal gambling debt puts him even deeper in the hole, Russell’s only way out is to go all in, joining forces with an up-and-coming young developer, a linked-up underworld kingpin and a Chinese casino magnate. Their goal? To sway an electorate easily distracted by a local media obsession with Hawaiʻi football into rolling the dice on the most unlikely legislative ambition in the state’s history.
Russ lays it all on the line in a battle that pits him against the “anointed” Democratic party favorite, an entrenched environmental movement and the long-lost righteous Hawaiian blood-brother he must convince to join him in the name of helping his people.
From the summit of Mauna Kea to the crowded shores of Waikīkī, from the State Capitol to the seedy backstreets of Honolulu, Panek leaves out nothing in this scathing portrait of 21st-century paradise.