Is Ho’onani wahine (girl) or kane (boy)? She doesn’t see herself as either. Instead she feels most comfortable somewhere in the middle.
Ho’onani: Hula Warrior is based on the true story of 11-year-old Ho’onani Kamai of Honolulu, Hawaii.
The reader can’t help but think about gender roles/identity and also about love, unconditional acceptance, and determination while learning a bit about Hawaiian culture.
Students of all ages enjoyed the book and had many thoughts about it. When asked their thoughts about a young girl being the leader of the older boys, not surprisingly, the first graders wondered “What’s big deal?” They were only concerned about whether or not she could do it well. The older students were more concerned about the consequences of her actions as they discussed the expected gender roles and the teasing/bullying she might experience.
It was great to see our Southeast Asian students connecting their own culture to the Hawaiian culture of story telling with music, song, and dance while reading about a strong, brown-skinned, wahine character.