“Trần Đình Trụ’s life story was one of grace, fortitude, and devotion to his family. A skilled seaman and a naval commander, he journeyed from North Vietnam to South Vietnam as a young man, and then from South Vietnam to the Philippines, Guam, Japan, and ultimately, the United States. In his memoir, he recounts his evacuation from South Vietnam in 1975, his experiences in a refugee camp in Guam, and his decision to return to Vietnam in October 1975 with more than 1500 Vietnamese repatriates as the captain of the Việt Nam Thương Tín. After he successfully navigated the ship back to Vietnam, the new government viewed him and the repatriates with fear and suspicion. Trần Đình Trụ suffered physical and psychological brutality in “re-education” camps for more than twelve years. On release, he finally rejoined with his family and resettled in the United States. Through his memoir, Trần Đình Trụ captured the singularity of his life story and the universality of despair and uncertainty at the end of war. He will be deeply missed by his family and community.”
Read more about the book and Tru’s life in an essay by Professor Lipman that first appeared in The Conversation and was republished on the UH Press blog.
Originally this post was a way to mark this month’s Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month by sharing personal memories from an editorial perspective of a pioneering Asian American literary icon, Milton Murayama. It has grown to include other remembrances from a marketing perspective. We are all proud to be the publisher of his bestselling novels.
Masako Ikeda, Acquisitons:
I only met Milton Murayama once, at the Asian American studies conference held in Honolulu in 1991. I tagged along with Sharon Yamamoto, who acquired his manuscripts for Five Years on a Rock and then Plantation Boy. Nothing at that meeting was particularly memorable as I sort of stood in the background, but I ended up enjoying serving as his managing editor for those two books. We wrote letters back and forth and continued to do so even as the century changed. Most of the time all he said in his letters was that he wanted to buy copies of his books or he was writing a new book, which wouldn’t be finished for a while.
After Five Years our production department held onto an old computer drive knowing that Milton had not updated his system and refused to do so. Our marketing staff coaxed him a number of times: “Milton, I’ll help you set it all up.” He kept sending me hard copy manuscripts with perforations on both ends along with five-inch floppy disks. The manuscript wasn’t complete so he wanted everything back, including the floppy disks, which he couldn’t find anymore. Right before he sent the very final manuscript, which eventually became Dying in a Strange Land, we had gotten rid of the drive, and there was no way to read his WordPerfect files. I ended up asking our Production staffer to keystroke everything, which she did in three days.
Communication with Milton was always interesting and often a little strange. He’d call to complain about the copy editor who didn’t understand that “Pidgin English doesn’t have ellipses points, or letter spaces in between.” He would also hesitate to say “Okay bye” and hang up the phone, so our conversation would go on for a long time with several seconds of dead silence breaking our talks in the most uncomfortable way.
Milton passed away in July 2016, and I didn’t know it until a month later when we saw the obituary in the Sunday paper. I felt guilty for not staying in touch. I do think of him quite often just as I think about Sharon, his true editor, whose passing was almost fourteen years earlier.
Steven Hirashima, Marketing:
My fondest memories of Milton would be visiting his fudge brown three-story home in the hillside area of Glen Park of San Francisco. Whenever I was in town I would always make a point to book a visit. The ritual was always the same. I would call to say I’m leaving the hotel and heading for the Union Square BART Station. Once at Glen Park, I would call to say I arrived and no more than five minutes later Milton would arrive in his old Toyota and we would head up the steep and winding road to his “retreat in the hills.”
Overlooking the flatlands of the city with Candlestick Park and SFO to the west, I would always be given a tour as to what was updated or repurposed around the house since my last visit (the actor Lou Diamond Phillips’s childhood family had been a previous neighbor), from a newly reapportioned sunroom downstairs to a section outside with a bed of spring flowers to Milton’s designated writing room where tucked in a corner would be his antique word processor (a Commodore 64), which I almost convinced him to ditch in favor of a newfangled Mac but he never wavered and remained forever faithful to his trusty machine.
Any trip to the Murayamas would invariably end in the kitchen where Milton and Dawn were the most gracious of hosts. We would often gather around the large formal dinner table for spirited conversation from his next book project or his time in the 442nd, feasting on a bowl of delicious Alaskan King crab legs and steamed garlic brussels sprouts, masterfully prepared by Milton only minutes before. Looking back, they were wonderful and precious times. How I long for another afternoon with Milton. Until then, God Speed and Aloha.
Carol Abe, Marketing:
My very first encounter with Milton was in 1975, the year his original edition of All I Asking for Is My Body published, the green one with the bamboo forest on the cover and an overly large “$3” printed on the back cover. He and wife Dawn lined up signings at Honolulu Book Shops, at which I was a bookstore clerk (we weren’t called “booksellers” until twenty years later). Of course I bought a copy with my generous employee discount and had it signed, but didn’t otherwise have a personal connection to him. Jump to 2008: I’d been at UH Press for ten years and we released Milton’s fourth and final novel in his tetralogy about the Oyama family. Steve Hirashima had switched to managing our Asian studies list and I did the same for our Hawai‘i, Pacific, and Asian American titles.
Dying in a Strange Land had a pub date of June but Milton called and said he would wait to visit in the fall, when it’d be cooler, and he only wanted to do low-key promotion of a few bookstore signings. Then, as now, the Press had no travel funds to support a book tour anyway. He finally decided November would be a good time to come and would do Maui and O‘ahu signings, but no readings or talks. So I booked a combination of Barnes & Noble and Borders stores that followed his wishes and filled his itinerary. We corresponded by snail mail and exchanged letters. In one of these, Milton revealed some of the real-life equivalents to the characters in his books. He wrote, “There’s more fact than fiction in my stories.”
After a fan of his scolded me for not paying for his travel and doing him justice, a series of serendipitous things happened that culminated in an event more befitting of a literary icon, “Revisiting Murayama: From Plantation to Diaspora.” Gary Pak, as it happened, had videotaped an interview with Milton that he still needed to screen; the amazing Marie Hara agreed to be co-organizer and was a conduit to both UHM English department and Bamboo Ridge; Craig Howes put me in touch with Phyllis Look, who had directed a play of All I Asking. The program developed further by recruiting Arnold Hiura, Lee Cataluna, and one of our student employees, Tricia Tolentino, all tied together with Steve as emcee. (And, by rolling the dice, we obtained funding from SEED and Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities, including an honorarium for Milton.)
During their visit, I had chauffeured Milton and Dawn to four or five appearances, perhaps being a bit manic in my driving. At the end, I asked Milton to sign my copy of Dying in a Strange Land. We all laughed warmly as I read his inscription: “It’s been fun getting to know you. I love smart flaky women, who’re also good drivers.” It was my honor and pleasure to have been a tiny part of his life.
Each of Milton’s novels can be read separately and not in sequence. Dying in a Strange Land is on sale now, at a very special price—click here to order.
The 14th annual Hawai‘i Book and Music Festival happens this weekend, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, and UH Press will once again be there! Come to our tent alongside Honolulu Hale, near the Kristi Yamaguchi Keiki Reading Corner, and be among the first to see our newest titles. Also attend several presentations by UHP authors and follow them to our booth for short booksignings before you head off to the next session. Check out the interactive festival schedule here.
June 23, 2017: This post has been updated with the results shown in bold.
Now in its 23rd year, the Ka Palapala Po‘okela Awards are presented by Hawai‘i Book Publishers Associationto honor Hawai‘i’s finest books and their authors, illustrators, photographers, designers, and publishers. While previously given annually, HBPA has switched to a biennial schedule, and this year’s eligible titles have 2015 and 2016 copyright dates. The winners will be announced at the awards celebration scheduled for Thursday, June 22, 6 to 8:30 pm, at the ARTS at Marks Garage in downtown Honolulu; the event is free and open to the public.
Attend the presentations by these UH Pressauthors and follow them to our booth, located alongside Honolulu Hale, for informal signings (times given are for the talks, so signings are about an hour later):
• Lillian Howan, The Charm Buyers (4:00 pm). Due to the late hour, buy the book ahead of time to sign at her talk and/or come to her reading on Saturday, May 13, 2:00 to 4:00 pm at Aupuni Place in Ward Warehouse.
At our tent we’ll have event discounts on the above titles and many others, and will offer free shipping on orders taken onsite. Slightly damaged (“hurt”) stock and a few titles in new condition will have special bargain prices.
We look forward to seeing everyone at this outside celebration of story and song!
When it comes to listing events, we can’t miss first mentioning our exhibit booth at the Association for Asian Studies annual conference taking place March 16–19 in Toronto. Acquisitions editors Pamela Kelley and Stephanie Chun, and marketing managers Royden Muranaka and Steven Hirashima make up our staffing contingent at this important meeting, which is attended by numerous UHP authors (and prospective authors) of Asian studies titles.
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Below is the current lineup of author appearances scheduled for the coming weeks—including a couple already past—mostly for our Hawai‘i-related titles. Unless otherwise noted, these events are free and the public is invited to attend; books will be available for sale and signing.
Thursday, March 16, 7:00 to 9:00 pm,Volcano Art Center, Volcano Village, Island of Hawai‘i Hawai‘i’s Kōlea coauthors Oscar “Wally” Johnson and Susan Scott will give a slideshow presentation on the amazing migratory bird at the Volcano Art Center Niaulani campus. While the event is free, a $5 donation would be appreciated. See more details on the VAC website. Wally leaves the next day to return to Montana, while Susan will stay on to do a signing on Saturday at Basically Books, before heading home to O‘ahu.
Saturday, March 25, three separate events in Kamuela and Hilo on the Big Island of Hawai‘i Dr. Billy Bergin and his son Dr. Brady Bergin, both respected equine veterinarians, will do a marathon book launch and signings for their new book, The Hawaiian Horse. The schedule and locations include:
• 9:00 am to 12 noon, Parker Ranch Store, 67-1185 Mamalahoa Hwy., Kamuela (phone 808-885-5669).
• 1:00 to 2:45 pm, Basically Books, 160 Kamehameha Avenue, Hilo (phone 808-961-0144). Includes a short talk.
• 3:00 to 4:30 pm, Lyman Museum, 276 Haili Street, Hilo (phone 808-935-5021). The authors will do a talk as part of the museum’s Patricia E. Saigo series of public programs. The cost is free for museum members and $3.00 for nonmembers. Read more on the event here.
Ms. Kawakami has scheduled additional presentations on Picture Bride Stories, including one on Thursday, April 13, 12:00 to 1:45 pm, at Kaua‘i Community College’s International Education Center (Office of Continuing Education and Training Bldg., Room 106 C/D). On Saturday, April 29, she will be at Temari‘s annual “BOLTS of Fabric & Fun” sale to participate in the 11:00 am Textile Talk Stories with Ann Asakura, and will sign books before and after her presentation. The BOLTS event is being held at Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i(which has its own Things Japanese annual sale the same day).
Thursday, April 13, 12 noon to 1:15 pm, Kuykendall Hall 410,UH Mānoa
At this Brown Bag series sponsored by the Center for Biographical Research, David Hanlon‘s talk, “‘You Did What, Mr. President?!?!’ Writing a Biography of the Federated States of Micronesia’s Tosiwa Nakayama” explores his work behind Making Micronesia.
Several author appearances are scheduled for the coming months; here are the remaining ones lined up for February. These events are free and the public is invited to attend. Books will be available for sale and signing, unless otherwise noted.
Saturday, February 18, 3:00 to 5:00 pm,Eastwind Books of Berkeley (2066 University Avenue) At this venerable independent bookshop, Lillian Howan will discuss and read from her debut novel, The Charm Buyers. Set in 1990s Tahiti during the last years of French nuclear testing in the Pacific, the book has been praised by early reviewers as “gorgeous,” “sensuous,” and “hynoptic” (see the blurbs under the “reviews” tab on the UH Press web page). A review scheduled to appear in the March/April issue of Foreword Reviews says, in part: “Howan’s language is breathtaking, building a land and family with detail and power. . . . The Charm Buyers is a thought-provoking insight into a time of cultural change. It captures an essence of existing between reality and surreality, dreaming and wakefulness, the past and the future.”
Saturday, February 18, 11:00 am,Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i Fifty years ago, Suikei Furuya chronicled his World War II imprisonment and published his memoirs in Japan. It took JCCH Resource Center volunteer Tatsumi Hayashi ten years to translate the book into English and now An Internment Odyssey: Haisho Tentenhas been published by JCCH, with additional distribution by UH Press. The book launch will include a panel discussion with Tatsumi Hayashi, Sheila Chun, Brian Niiya and a member of the Furuya family. For further details, see the JCCH website.
Thursday, February 23, 12 noon to 1:15 pm, Kuykendall Hall 410,UH Mānoa
Several University of Hawai‘i Press authors will be presenting their works this month and next. These events are free and the public is invited to attend. Books will be available for sale and signing, unless otherwise noted.
Thursday, October 6, noon to 1:15 pm, Henke Hall 325,UH Mānoa
At this Center for Biographical Researchbrown bag talk, Rodney Morales addresses the role that research plays in his fiction, particularly his new novel, For a Song. In fabricating stories that ring true, he not only focuses on documentable events, actual persons, and observable landscapes, as histories and biographies do, but also finds ways to breathe life into them. (See the fall semester Brown Bag Biography schedule here.)
Dr. Marie Alohalani Brown again shares her work and insight on Hawaiian statesman John Papa ‘Ī‘ī; this time to a downtown Honolulu audience. See more details and register on Eventbrite.
Events to come in November include Rodney Morales at Native Books/Nā Mea Hawai‘i on November 5, 2:30 to 4 pm, and discussions with editors Aya Kimura and Krisnawati Suryanata, along with chapter contributors, to highlight Food and Power in Hawai‘i. A book launch for Food and Power in Hawai‘i is scheduled for November 4, 2:30 to 4:00 pm at UHM Saunders Hall 443. Check our Facebook page for updates.
Come by the UH Press tent, located on the ‘ewa-mauka side of the grounds, alongside Honolulu Hale (left side of the map). This year we are cosponsors with theInstitute for Astronomy for their neighboring booth as well as presentations by IfA director Günther Hasinger for Astronomy’s Limitless Journey and by Roy Gal for Michael West’s A Sky Wonderful with Stars. Also new this year is the O‘ahu Nursery Growers Association plant sale, so several of our gardening books have been added to our display. As always, we’ll have our latest Hawai‘i titles available at a discount and will offer free US shipping on orders taken onsite.
Many of the characters and locations featured in Frank Chin‘s The Confessions of a Number One Son are based on the author’s experiences living on Maui over four decades ago. In 1969, Chin taught at San Francisco State, but decided to take a break from teaching and move to the island, where he worked as a carpenter with some old friends from Berkeley. Over time, Chin grew anxious to return to the mainland, but found that he couldn’t afford a plane ticket home.
As fate would have it, he learned of a playwriting contest sponsored by the East West Players, a showcase theater for Asian American actors in Los Angeles. The top prize was a thousand dollars. Over the course of several weeks, Chin wrote and submitted a play, and eventually found himself sharing the award with Momoko Iko—thereby earning half of the prize money, which was more than enough to buy a plane ticket back to California. That prize-winning play was The Chickencoop Chinaman and the rest, as they say, is history.
This August, forty-five years after Chin left Maui, editor Calvin McMillin decided to travel to the island to investigate the writer’s old haunts, especially those featured in the novel. He visited Wailuku, located at the mouth of ‘Iao Valley and near the landmarks of ‘Iao Needle and ‘Iao Stream (historically known as Wailuku stream). As Calvin reported after his trip, seeing the lush and beautiful natural environment in person added a new understanding of the novel’s Hawaiian backdrop.
After visiting the historic Iao Theater, Calvin followed in Frank Chin’s footsteps (and more recently, those of Anthony Bourdain) by eating at Tasty Crust, an old-fashioned local diner in Wailuku, and concluded that the startling similarities between Tasty Crust’s breakfast menu and the main character’s diet in The Confessions of a Number One Son was unlikely to be just a coincidence.
“I ate in restaurants. Spam and eggs, canned Vienna sausage and eggs, canned corned beef hash and Portuguese linguica and eggs, and canned ham and eggs out of a typical greasy spoon for breakfast. The mass eats of the white missionary culture and U.S. military now a part of island culture. The wonders of canned processed meat—a part of life every morning—sealed up hunger with grease.” (page 43)
Calvin also visited many of the beach locations featured in the novel and drove to Lahaina’s Wo Hing Museum, which offers information about Chinese immigration to Maui in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
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