Local author blends Hawaiian myths with tough modern reality in critically-acclaimed debut novel

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON) — The legend of Nainoa Flores began when he was 7 years-old. When he fell off a boat and was quickly surrounded by a group of sharks, it seemed as if tragedy was about to strike. This was no Jaws situation, however. Instead, the sharks rescued Nainoa and gently carried him back to his mother.

This sequence of events is what begins Hawaiian Island native Kawai Strong Washburn’s debut novel, Sharks in the Time of Saviors. Published in the beginning of March, it has already earned tremendous praise from the literary world.

The Los Angeles Review of Books called it “one of the most richly imagined and evocative debuts in recent memory,” and Booker Prize-winning author Marlon James called it “a ferocious debut” with “daredevil lyricism.”

Blending Hawaiian myths with the tough economic reality of modern life in Hawaii, Washburn tells the story of the Hawaiian-Filipino Flores family struggling to make it — in Hawaii as well as on the continent.

As the ongoing coronavirus pandemic pushes more people indoors for longer durations, our screens can have a delirious, confining effect on us. We ricochet from phone to computer to TV in dizzying orbits, straining our eyes and funneling ourselves into the cramped digital borders of our devices.

Books, however, have the opposite effect. They open worlds and challenge possibilities, and in the case of Sharks in the Time of Saviors, they spark the magic of imagination.

You can order the book here.

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