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Blu's Hanging

3.85  ·  Rating Details  ·  746 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
On the Hawaiian island of Molokai, life goes on for the three young Ogata children after the death of their mother and subsequent emotional withdrawal of their grief and guilt-stricken "Poppy." The eldest at 13, Ivah is now responsible for the safety and well-being of tiny Maisie, vulnerable and mute since their mother's passing; and for Blu, her uncontainable brother whos ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published July 1st 1998 by Harper Perennial (first published 1997)
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Oct 31, 2010 Dusty rated it liked it
Recommended to Dusty by: Julia Lee
Divisive as this book remains, more than a decade after its publication, I'm surprised more people don't know about it. From what I've read, the controversy mostly involves Yamanaka's use of a sexually depraved Filipino-American man as her villain, an artistic/political decision that transforms Blu's Hanging into the story of one Asian-American family's triumph over another Asian-American family. Given that political structures in Hawaii already empower Japanese-American subjects (comparatively) ...more
Lisa Lee
Apr 13, 2015 Lisa Lee rated it it was amazing
Shelves: female-author, yellow
Wow, dunno if I can survive this one. Kinda makes me want to run through the streets screaming or shouting "This was so good! This was so hard! Why is this so hard." Ya know?

Ying Yu Situ, read this one.
Nov 16, 2007 C rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: those with stronger hearts than mine
Shelves: eh
This book is beautifully written--engaging and haunting--but after the second act of animal cruelty (which was vividly portrayed), I put it back on the shelf. I'm so tired of animals as sacrificial beings in the craft of writing; if this is what is required of writers, it's time to find a new god of creation.
Jun 07, 2015 Jackie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, yellow
don't have the words for this one yet (but need to find them soon, essay deadline is fast approaching, ha ha) - one of those books that leaves you hot and cold and liquid, all at once
Nov 26, 2007 Jenny rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
This is another book I read for my Asian American lit class that I think now is one of my favorite books. I don't know why I'm getting so into these novels we've been reading in this class, but maybe they're just good novels.

Anyway, at first I didn't like it. It's about a dirt poor Hawaiian family who is grieving the death of "Mama." It's told from the perspective of Ivah, a 12/13 year old girl who is stuck having to care for her siblings and father after her mother dies. Much of the book is wri
Dec 17, 2007 Scot rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: favorites
I found another book recently in my journey to the center of the earth otherwise known as my attempt to clean up my basement.

Blu's Hanging is one of my favorite books. I love Lois Ann Yamanaka right down to her flipped out hair and super-dark lipstick. If you pick up a copy that includes a picture of her you'll know just what I mean. You can just tell that she got busted for smoking in the girls room more often than any other girl in school, or at least that's how I imagine her to be from her p
Demisty Bellinger
Blu’s Hanging is a surprising story of Hawai'i involving slums, overt racism, classism, and pedophile. Yamanaka got some flak for having the main sexual predator, Uncle Paulo, Filipino, but I am sure she is painting one picture she has seen in her Hawai'i.

The story chronicles the lives of Presley “Blu” Ogata and his family. Ivah, his oldest sister (and the oldest child), is the narrator. Their mother recently died from continual use of a leprosy drug she no longer needed. The father, in his grie
Ravi Jain
Aug 31, 2013 Ravi Jain rated it it was ok
The point isn't really the story.

The point is that someone -- anyone -- has to tell about the lives of these folks who are living at the margins of Hawaiian and American society, and are invisible to the hordes of tourists who are a mainstay of the Hawaiian economy. Someone has to capture their speech, their communities, their myths and fears, before they are completely obscured by the high-rise luxury hotel resorts and fake luaus -- and it doesnt really matter too much that the story itself is
Helen Machuga
Feb 03, 2013 Helen Machuga rated it it was ok
I read this book because two friends strongly suggested I read it. Well written with great character descriptions, the book depicts in great detail a portion of Hawaiian life, unfortunately not a portion that I would like to visit. The story of three children left without adult supervision and protection after their mother's death and their father's virtual disappearance into grief, guilt, and work, the book portrays the gritty picture of life outside the tourist track, filled with various types ...more
Apr 10, 2016 Travis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely brutal. Could not recommend for all readers because of numerous instances of violence (including sexual violence) against children and animals. On the other hand, this is an amazing coming of age story of Ivah, a young girl thrust into surrogate motherhood when her own mother passed away and her father mentally deteriorates under depression and substance abuse. Largely, the novel is about Ivah's tough spot (be the only care provider for her youngest sister who appears to be on the aut ...more
Byrd Alyssa
Dec 05, 2009 Byrd Alyssa rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all who love great lit.
Written in pidgin, the use of local dialect added emphasis and aroma to a story set in Molokai that absolutely made my belly ache from laughing so hard (when i wasn't crying). Nothing funny about lepers, poverty or abuse, yet like with the greatest literature, Yamanaka is able to weave painful subjects with truth, engaging readers, and most importantly leaves us questioning.
Nov 07, 2009 Ashley rated it did not like it
Don't waste your time. Pretty sad because it could be good but what is brutal in it is vulgar and not tasteful at all. My line may be far away, but it's there and this book crossed it.
Apr 07, 2010 Amber rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Ugly. I couldn't get over the animal abuse. The images that this book creates of children killing animals will stay with the reader. If you love animals, DO NOT pick this up.
J Attridge
May 12, 2007 J Attridge rated it it was amazing
The diction well represented the mix of cultures present in the Hawaiian islands and made the read very quick and vivid...despite the fact that the protagonist was Filipino.
Scott Benyacko
I just finished this novel last night, and my feelings about the text are mixed. I understand what Yamanta was trying to do. Blu--in my mind--was the real main character of the novel, even though Ivah is the voice through which the story is told. Blu's cravings for all things material is eventually what leads to his brutal rape at the hands of Uncle Paulo. The problem I have with the text, though, is that about half way through the novel--around Christmas--it went from bittersweet to outright ca ...more
Jun 27, 2013 Michiko rated it really liked it
On Wednesday, June 26, I hosted our meeting to discuss Blu’s Hanging by Lois-Ann Yamanka. Unfortunately, this book is no longer in print although it became known as a racially controversy work of literature by the Association for Asian American Studies. Uncle Paulo who is Filipino-American is a minor character where the argument stems from. He is known to sexually molest several of the children in the book. The Filipino community found this be offensive and portrayed their ethnicity in a negativ ...more
Jul 02, 2008 Leah rated it liked it
Lois-Ann Yamanaka’s novel, Blu’s Hanging, begins most appropriately with a description of hunger satisfied in meager portions – the narrator Ivah Ogata feeding herself and her little siblings, Blu and Maisie, only with bread covered in mayonnaise, while their father feeds his hunger for his dead wife by playing “Moon River” at the piano (3). The atmosphere of hunger and want, told and highlighted by Ivah’s lilting pidgin, appears in moments of sweet sorrow throughout the book even in its final c ...more
Blu’s Hanging by Lois-Ann Yamanaka tells the story of the Ogatas, a struggling family living in Kaunakakai, Moloka‘i. Ivah, the oldest sister, must care for her younger siblings, Blu and Maisie, after the death of their mother. This is a heart-breaking tale of a trio of children who must encounter the perils of life (embodied by their “Human Rat” neighbors, the Reyes sisters and their creepy Uncle Paulo), without the guidance of their parents. Ivah is a strong 13-year-old girl who tries to prote ...more
Aaron Lowe
May 21, 2015 Aaron Lowe rated it really liked it
This was a read for my Asian Literature class as otherwise it's not the kind of book I go looking for. That being said, it was an excellent and emotional ride. Lois-Ann Yamanaka does a superb job capturing the raw emotional state of being a young person(s) caught it terrible circumstances. The powerful moments are powerful because of who the characters are and what they've gone through more than any drama within the moment itself. You also get to see a side of Hawai'i unknown to us mainlanders.
Brittany Laccetti
Feb 01, 2012 Brittany Laccetti rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book.
I don't know if I like it more because it's currently not in print anymore. I have no idea why it's not currently in print anymore, because this book is really good. Once again Yamanka uses pidgin to make her characters come to life. She really uses cultural references to native Hawai'i throughout the book. One of my favorite is the spirit of the animal. The family has a dog named Ka-san and the dog is metaphorically their mother throughout the story. The same charac
Yamanaka's word choice is wonderful. Her words show culture. She also shows how 'playful' the language is because of the many uses we can think of in a single word (you can already guess what word I'm referring to). As for the story itself, I liked the way it started and ended. The ending gave closure to what the beginning was all about, while the characters themselves showed what the title is all about. I also loved how there has been a development with the characters in every chapter. It might ...more
Apr 13, 2007 mika rated it really liked it
Shelves: nikkei
fucking excellent. but i think because i needed it at the time. got me to write my first poem in 4 yrs.

there was a pretty big controversy over whether the depiction of certain characters of filipino descent was racialized or "realistic." i found this to be the only major weakness/flaw of this book. it's a pretty big flaw though. for that reason i give it a rating of "i loved it" rather than "it was amazing" because i think the depiction of those characters lacked some depth and was therefore ir
Feb 27, 2014 Mara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Run, don't walk to the library, get anything by Lois Ann Yamanaka and read it. Now.
Sara Cat
Oct 04, 2010 Sara Cat rated it it was amazing
A family story of three siblings after their mother has died with a hardworking but absent father, on the island of Molokai. It is an excellent "Hawaiian" novel in the sense that it captures the location/culture, but is that is not the only thing that makes it memorable. It is one of those true, harsh childhood stories where teachers are sometimes mean and sometimes life-changing, other kids are often awful, siblings can be loyal and love each other.

The use of Hawaiian creole is charming but no
Jun 08, 2012 Lauren rated it liked it
This book starts out a little tough to get through because of some gruesome animal cruelty, but I'm glad I kept going because it really was worth reading. I've read a few things in pidgin English lately, but this was done the best. After about thirty pages, you're thinking in pidgin. It's a really neat dialect.
This book says a lot about how resourceful kids can be in poverty. I kept having to remind myself that Ivah was only thirteen. Never underestimate kids; they'll surprise you.
Sophie V.
Nov 07, 2015 Sophie V. rated it really liked it
The pidgin is so melodic, it's wonderful. Loved it even if the story is tough and emotionally challenging.
Jul 30, 2014 Sophie rated it it was amazing
What an amazing story, so heartbreaking and beautiful. She mixes in humor so perfectly. I loved this book!
Oct 19, 2008 David rated it really liked it
This book is emotionally gripping without being too overly sentimental. The characters and place are intensely vivid. It really pulls you in. The use of dialect was careful, enough to establish and cultivate the identity of the characters and place as Hawaiian poverty without being too difficult to follow. I can't believe I had to go through the effort I did to find a copy. This book deserves to still be in print.
Dec 07, 2008 Beverly rated it it was amazing
One of the best I've ever read. Although it's not a happy story, it ends with a sense of hope. It's set in Hawaii and tells the story of a family of present-day native Hawaiians. Not the paradise of palm trees that comes to mind for most people. Most of the dialogue is in Hawaiian pidgin, which can be tough to read if you're not familiar with it. But it's perfectly do-able for mainland folk.
Yamanaka uses language and culture in this interesting coming-of-age novel. Set in the cultural battlegrounds of Hawaii, most of the dialogue is in pidgin (don't worry, you'll pick up fast), and not only do we see the repercussions of Americanization in a native vs. Asian world but also poverty, violence, sexuality, and, for some, survival. An easy read and worth your time.
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Lois-Ann Yamanaka is the author of Saturday Night at the Pahala Theatre, Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers, Blu's Hanging, Heads by Harry, Name Me Nobody, Father of the Four Passages, The Heart's Language, and Behold the Many. Her work has received numerous awards including the Hawai'i Award for Literature, the American Book Award, the Children's Choice for Literature, the Pushcart Prize for poetry, ...more
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“For the girl without words, there is laughter for what is light, gesture for want, and tears for all that is dark. There is not much more. Names are nothing but extravagance.” 1 likes
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