Paul Theroux’s Quest to Define Hawaii
For this renowned travel writer, no place has proved harder to decipher than his home for the past 22 years

Renowned travel writer Paul Theroux has lived in Hawaii for two decades, but in this piece for +Smithsonian Magazine, explains why he "is still trying to make sense of it all." He writes of not getting help translating a Hawaiian chant (netting a 'xenophobic' reply), of being rebuffed at a UH library (illustrative of the 'insular and uninviting' university overall), of not being offered a tour of a voyaging canoe despite offering some of his own local honey.

His ultimate conclusion, that Hawaii eludes any simple definition, is absolutely correct. But his tone throughout suggests that he's largely frustrated because islanders, failing to recognize his preeminence, are understandably reluctant to let him tell their stories. After living here 22 years, I'm sad to think that his understanding of our islands is no deeper than that of a typical weekend tourist.

I shared this article on Facebook, and got quite a few thoughtful responses, from "too busy making labels, no time to live the culture," to "It is really a bridge, an invite for the malihini/kamaaina to examine themselves and their dominant culture and economy more deeply... Maybe too a bit of a elbow to the locals as well to speak and stand up for themselves and the aina."

Your thoughts?