To most, Hawaiʻi is known as the land of hula girls in grass skirts, vibrant rainbows, picture-perfect beaches, and volcanoes. While that is not entirely false, it is also far from the whole truth. In Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Hawaiʻi, co-editors Hōkūlani K. Aikau and Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez gather interviews, essays and tales from Kanaka (Hawaiian people) in an effort to lead potential readers and visitors of Hawaiʻi towards an accurate and raw depiction of Hawai’i.
By collecting the stories of Kanaka, this guide educates its readers with rich, wise primary sources. It effectively amplifies the voices of those most knowledgeable and does not shy away from harsh facts and truths that are often glossed over. The honesty of the book is especially impactful with the preservation of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language) in the text. The translations offered are directly defined by authors using the language to avoid mistranslation. As the introduction points out, “translation is political” and cultural encoding can very easily limit or damage conveyance of Hawaiian knowledge.
I was impressed by this guide right from the start as the introduction explains the intentions of the read to follow and dives directly into deep traditions such as presenting a mele kāhea, or a chant petitioning for entry or welcome, to ask permission to enter or pass through a place. Right from the start, ground rules of respect are established for everyone and enforced with an example of a deity being held to the same standards. The introduction also gives clarity to the structure of the guide. Broken up into three parts, the entirety of the piece plays an intentional role in conveying the importance of understanding the sacredness of Hawaiʻi.
The book reminded me of how much I do not know despite being born and raised in the islands. Furthermore, the stories reignite my ever-growing respect for the land, culture, and people of Hawaiʻi. I highly recommend this guide to everyone who has or plans to have contact with Hawai’i. What you learn from reading should impact the way you approach your visit and bring to light new considerations to uphold a pono (just, fitting) experience.