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BOOK REVIEW in Big Island Weekly

Mahalo to Bren Chance of Big Island Weekly for this book review!

Local Author Debuts Romantic Novel


By Bren Chance

Hilo-based author, Justina Taft, has expertly woven together a tale that depicts the real culture of Hawaiʻi in three languages. English, olelo Hawaiʻi, and local pidgin speak the dialect of love and friendship. After Dawn is classified in the romance genre, but is really more about the deeper levels of the heart- friendship and family.

The main character, Aurora, is hapa-Hawaiian. She, like many local children, was raised by a mother from the mainland and a father who is strongly vocal about the Hawaiian culture not being relevant to today’s world. Aurora, however, is curious and begins to study her people’s language and culture while attending the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa. She questions the logic of not being given this knowledge directly from her own family.

Aurora is diagnosed with a terminal illness, which sends those close to her into a tailspin trying to cope with their own issues while helping her keep up her coursework as she deals with the effects of ill health. As her loved ones deal with relationship taboos, she enters into her own unusual romantic relationship with a kane o ka po, the Hawaiian term for a lover who appears to a woman in her dreams.

Part of the magic in Taft’s story is the friendship between Aurora and Alex. As Alex assists his beloved friend through her many swift transformations, Aurora guides and supports him as he explores his sexual orientation and his outward appearance. It’s a delight to see the author using the gender terminology befitting how the characters present themselves in the now, and anyone who struggles with not being sure what terms to use to describe a transgender person can learn much from Taft’s example.

Those raised in the Islands will recognize and appreciate the attention to detail when it comes to language, culture, locations, local history, and what it’s like to actually live in Hawaiʻi. Readers around the world will enjoy this deeply enriching experience of Hawaiʻi as they live, love, and explore the other side through this inspiring story. Where many books offer just a bite of the local flavor, After Dawn is more like a well-prepared luʻau with all the sauces, spices, and songs.

After Dawn is available for purchase at Basically Books in downtown Hilo, and online through Barnes and Noble. Also available for Nook.

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