Kristiana Kahakauwila


Kristiana Kahakauwila is a hapa writer of fiction and nonfiction. She is an associate professor of creative writing at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, and the 2015–16 Lisa Goldberg Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her first book, This is Paradise: Stories (Hogarth, 2013), was a Barnes & Noble Discover selection. She is currently working on a multi-generational historical novel set on the island of Maui and trying to figure out where to surf in New England.

From “Beloved Men”

In one of my earliest memories I am reaching upward, waiting to be lifted onto my father’s shoulders. We are strolling 2nd Street, a pavilion of shops and restaurants near our house in Long Beach, California, en route to frozen yogurt. Two vanilla cones: rainbow sprinkles for me, chocolate for him.

This is our weekend routine. Saturday afternoons our escape. My mother is the type to shop at health food stores before that’s a thing, to have banned white rice and cured meats from the house. No candy. No chocolate. Saturdays with my dad are different. We are a team. A team whose sport is eating frozen yogurt.

Later, when I’m a teenager, when my mother’s altitude sickness prevents her from joining us on our annual family ski trip, my dad and I do not protest her absence. We fly to Park City for my Spring Break. The next year we drive to Mammoth. She makes the arrangements—finds the condo, works the finances, tells us which shop has the cheapest rentals and how to find the grocery store. We dutifully call her each evening but, I hate to admit it, I don’t miss her. I like these days with my dad, peering into crevices from the ski lift, following the lines he makes in the snow. In the evenings he cooks spaghetti with sausage or juicy burgers with bacon. After, I study for my AP exams while he watches baseball on the television.

My dad is kanaka maoli. Native Hawaiian. On the mountaintop, that sun so close you could lasso it, his skin turns impossibly dark. We get raccoon eyes from our goggles. He and his Hawaiian friends are the ones who taught me to ski when I was four. Years later—as an adult—I think to ask, why skiing? I learn that he had never seen snow until he was in his twenties. But his friends, all outrigger paddlers, needed a sport for the off-season so they chose the most unlikely, the biggest lark. They’ve always liked a good joke, and a bunch of Hawaiians on skis is it.