Burn It or Buy It Books Message Board › Unfamiliar Fishes Discussion Questions
Saint Paul, MN
1. What did you think about the writer's style? Engaging or off-putting?
2. What major emotion did Unfamiliar Fishes as a whole evoke in you as a reader?
3. Pg. 6 & 7 - She mentions “soft power” as the process by which one people gets another group of people “to want what you want”. Isn’t that the ultimate nonviolent power of persuasion? And, do you think that is what really happened with the Hawaiian people? She also compares the change in Hawaii as the same as America…but in Hawaii, every race is now a minority. How do you see Hawaii’s population? And, does any one race have a louder voice than another?
4. Pgs 47-48 – Kekuni Blaisdell – so the taro plant is the result of burying a still-born baby girl bred of the sky Father and his daughter and its first shoot is the first kanaka or number one sibling. Does this help explain the reverence to taro in the Hawaiian Islands?
5. Pg 90 – Vowell compares raping the coral reefs for the building of Kawaiaha’o Church in 1842 to the “raping of Nanking”. Do you agree?
6. Pg 170/171 – between 1848-9, 10% of the population died from a variety of illnesses. In 1853, another 5,000 people died on Oahu from small pox. And then leprosy came and by 1865 there were nearly 3,000 reported cases. Over the years, more than 8,000 exiles were sent to Molokai – RLS called it “a prison fortified by nature.” At the time of the overthrow in 1893, Kalaupapa had more than 1,000 residents. Exiles were legally segregated until 1969 – that’s 23 years after a cure was found. WHY?
7. Pg 190 – what did you think of Kalakaua’s “election gin” method for getting votes?
8. What do you think Queen Liliuokalani would have thought of her song “Aloha ‘Oe” being sung at Pres. Obama’s inauguration?
9. Page 138 refers to the books title. Do you feel this title was a good depiction of the book itself? Why do you think Dole was initially so pro Americanization, but then wrote such opposing sentiment to his native friends and ultimately requested he be buried atop a Mountain where he hoped no white man would ever build a house?
10. After reading Unfamiliar Fishes, would you be willing to read other books from Sarah Vowell?
11. If a friend asked about Unfamiliar Fishes would you tell them to "Burn It" or "Buy It"?