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New adventure book brings Hawaiian legends to young readers

Courtesy Penguin Young Readers Group

Author Malia Maunakea's new middle-grade novel, "Lei and the Fire Goddess," focuses on Anna, a 12-year-old part-Hawaiian girl living on the mainland and wrestling with her cultural identity.

While reluctantly visiting her grandmother in Hawaiʻi, Anna goes on an epic adventure alongside demigods and mythical creatures to save her best friend.

Author Malia Maunakea (right) with HPR's Russell Subiono

"This story was fun to write because it's kind of the perfect blend of my own identity struggle growing up, mixed with what I want to pass on to my keiki who are being raised on the continent," Maunakea said.

Maunakea grew up on the Big Island, graduated from Kamehameha Schools, and now lives in Colorado.
She’s been on Oʻahu to kick off a statewide school tour. The plan is to visit Title I schools and donate nearly 3,000 copies of her book to students.

"What I want to provide is a mirror to let the kids see their own culture reflected back at them — maybe for the first time in some cases, in this genre, in this age grouping, and in an adventurous fictional sort of way, not your teachers teaching you about the old legends and myths," she told The Conversation.

Maunakea will be part of two events on Oʻahu this Saturday, Sept. 16: a talk story at Da Shop in Kaimuki in the morning and an Asian-American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander author panel at Barnes and Noble in the afternoon.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Sept. 14, 2023. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Russell Subiono is the executive producer of The Conversation and host of HPR's This Is Our Hawaiʻi podcast. Born in Honolulu and raised on Hawaiʻi Island, he’s spent the last decade working in local film, television and radio. Contact him at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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