Angela Nishimoto

Angela Nishimoto holds the M.S. degree in botany from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. She grew up on the windward side of O‘ahu, teaches on the leeward side, and lives in Honolulu. She writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry and has published extensively, but not exclusively, in Hawai‘i. Her work can be found in Hawai‘i Review, Hawai‘i Pacific Review, Kaimana, Bamboo Ridge, Ms. Aligned, Writing Raw, and elsewhere.

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Excerpt from “Sex Education: A Tragicomedy, Part II”

May Day (1967)

We were in fourth grade, covering Hawaiian Culture in Social Studies. Our class went on a field trip to the Kamaka ‘Ukulele Factory in town. We found out how much one Kamaka ‘ukulele cost. Fifty dollars. “Wow!” I said. “Expensive!” The man giving us the tour gave me a sour look.

For the May Day festival at school, we practiced playing “Pearly Shells” on our ‘ukuleles. We played and sang.

I hung around with Johnny Henssen. He was tall and had a really big stomach. Johnny had a blond crewcut. He and his parents came from the Mainland. The other kids whispered that he stank. I wondered if he took a bath only once a week—like Huckleberry Finn. I didn’t know that much about haoles, though I had cousins who were hapa-haole. I finally decided that haoles take their baths on Saturday nights only.

Excerpt from Statement

“Sex Education” is an excerpt from a longer work begun a few years ago. The piece grew and grew, breaking my personal memory walls with its power to remind about what happened so long ago. The whole work is comprised of short, discrete scenes that seem to end up as a story of my sexual education. Sex was all around, of course, as it always is, but at the time I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, nice people didn’t talk about it, at least not out loud. Whispers and hints about sex and its power dogged my psyche. What was unsaid seemed more important than what people articulated, even in undertones.

The longest of the pieces in Ms. Aligned 3 is about betrayal. Betrayal of a friend and betrayal of the self. I really liked the boy because he was nice and kind to me. I ended up siding with the group—most of our class—in my renunciation of that big, blond, haole boy.