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The Tattoo

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  307 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
“A book about ‘the sins of the fathers.’ . . . A gritty, troubling book.”—The Honolulu Advertiser

“The other Hawai’i, the one tourists never get to see.”—Ian MacMillan

Ken Hideyoshi is the new guy in Halawa Correctional Institute. He’s tough looking, a hard case, observes his cellmate Cal—the mute tattoo artist of the prison, a wife murderer. SYN, a gang symbol, is tattooe
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 1st 2007 by Soho Press (first published 1999)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 504)
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Nov 29, 2008 Wendell rated it it was ok
I wanted to love this book, I really did. I was born and raised on Oahu's north shore and went to UH. McKinney's settings in Honolulu and on the windward side are my old stomping grounds. In addition, I've taught in prisons (and taught prison lit), and working-class and prison issues are among the themes I'm most interested in seeing dealt with in fiction. Based on the (overly) positive reviews here, I ordered a copy because I was anxious to see how a writer had combined those elements.

Dec 04, 2010 Yoonmee rated it liked it
Although the story line was intriguing and I although I enjoyed the book, I can't bring myself to give it more than 3 stars. The writing just felt like, well, it felt like a writer's first book -- which it was. Still, it could have used a better editor, many transitions felt choppy, the use of the tattoo-ing time to frame the story felt a little bit contrived, and way to often McKinney told rather than showed us what Ken was thinking.

I'm going to give McKinney another chance because I enjoyed th
Nov 10, 2013 Lynn rated it it was amazing
I’m a Haole transplant in Hawaii from NY. I read this book so I could tutor an at-risk student here. This was a fascinating read for so many reasons.
Firstly, it is a look into the poor, adolescent culture that teaches boys that survival means being able to fight, and an illustration of how much easier it is to be involved in the drug culture, and how difficult it is to escape the caste system.
Secondly, the book illustrated some reasons why anger and resentment at the dominant white culture erup
May 11, 2012 Jade1257 rated it liked it
This was a good story. I disagree with some of the other reviews. It was smart to write the pijin (and yes, I purposely spelled it that way), with some words "un-pijined" in their spelling, because if it was written exactly phonetically, word for word, it would have been difficult to understand for someone who is not familiar with it. The reading would become too much of a chore. I also didn't think it was a mistake to tell the story from one point of view and had no problem with what tense was ...more
Jul 31, 2015 Mary rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Laurie Tomchak
Jun 24, 2012 Laurie Tomchak rated it liked it
Read for the second time for a book group. Well written, true to local reality. However, it is not a pleasant book to read. The characters are all flawed and rather unlikeable, though all have their moments and their reasons.
Jan 26, 2011 Anthony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book isn't winning any awards but I have to say that it snuck up on me and I finished it in a day. I think that what it lacks in craft it more than makes up for in plot.
Apr 03, 2016 C.L. rated it really liked it
Three Reasons: The Tattoo by Chris McKinney

This is a solid book, but not necessarily because it's the "best" writing. Instead, it's a solid book for 1) the content that is accessible to the Hawaii Local and the island teen, 2) the nicely developed images especially with respect to the symbolism of the shark, and 3) the way to story lingers with you long after finishing the prose.

That said, there are negatives. 1) there are overly contrived moments that seems born of convenience instead of being
May 22, 2014 Rhal rated it it was amazing
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I had to read it for a final year University course on the Sociology of Violence. It ended up being my favourite part of the course.

I couldn't put the book down. This book is well worth the read.

The various character developments are fantastic and the tapestry of relationships is rich. Whilst I was reading I felt as though I could identify with the issues the characters were facing and this was entirely the result of the excellent writing.

Matt Worthington
Jan 02, 2013 Matt Worthington rated it liked it
Shelves: hawaii
In 2002, I saw this on the shelf at the Hale Koa Hotel's shoppette and grabbed it along with some other books for the long flight back East. I had read some truly awful books earlier that year and when the blurb mentioned that it was a first novel from a junior college English teacher I settled in for what I thought would be a hefty helping of the liveliest pretentious awfulness.

It never materialized. In hindsight I was kind of an asshole to think what I did, but this isn't about me.

The Tattoo
Apr 06, 2015 Mark rated it really liked it
Like Queen of Tears, McKinney captures another side of Hawai'i for mainland visitors, the side of steamy sex, petty crime, and familial tragedy. Well worth the time. A longer review may be found at:
Lucas  Brog
Apr 05, 2015 Lucas Brog rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've ever read. Real, gritty, exciting, happy, sad, nostalgic, mind opening. I can't recommend this book enough, its just so f*&%ing good!
Dec 22, 2010 Monkey rated it liked it
I liked this book and the subject was interesting in that I've been to Hawaii, but it's not somewhere I'm overly familiar with, so I liked reading about a different culture. I don't think the writing is great, and while the story is looking to show the dark side of the island- I thought some of the plot was overreaching and then slightly not believeable. I did think he did a good job talking about what it feels like to live on an island like Hawaii which is pretty unique and both a part of the U ...more
Jan 23, 2016 Michele rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club-pick
Depressing on many levels: bleak, gritty, every character doomed - either by their own making, by social forces/racism, unforeseen circumstances, or a combination of all of it. I wanted to be done and pretend that people like this - their lives - do not really exist; that their futures could be different. The gift/curse of my privilege.
Alika Zam
Mar 20, 2015 Alika Zam rated it liked it
Not an overly complex book in terms of plot, but really well written. Gives you an interesting perspective on crime and race relations in Hawaii - definitely glad I had to read this for uni.
Crystal Joy
Jun 11, 2015 Crystal Joy rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book and it gives an outlook on Hawaii that not everyone knows about.
Mandy Johnson
Mar 07, 2014 Mandy Johnson rated it really liked it
Good. A heartbreaking story of the generational manifestations of cultural genocide
Mar 17, 2015 Nicole rated it liked it
(sociol text)
Aug 26, 2008 Kori-Jo rated it really liked it
This book was written by a local writer from Hawaii. It delves somewhat into the side of Hawaii that people don't see or want to talk about. But if you're from Hawaii then you know it's not all paradise, in regards to the human aspect.

It also goes into the "samurai" mentality that many Japanese American men still perpetuate. I don't believe this is true for all Japanese American men as this book portrays the extreme end of the spectrum, but from my own experiences I know there are quite a few.
Dec 06, 2007 Atomicgirl rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: older teens and adults
Shelves: young-adult, hawaiian
I was actually dreading reading this book, as it's often on the older teens' reading lists in Hawaii. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by it's depth and realism. The author presents life in Hawaii as far away from the idyllic scenery and carefree lifestyle as possible. The grittiness of the language is both harsh and authentic. The violence may shock a few readers, so I would only recommend this book to high school juniors and seniors and adults.
Apr 22, 2007 deanna rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone in Hawaii
So, Simi loaned me this great book with the advice that it shows a lot of how things were. . .and how it kind of helps people like me see how people from the mainland, and I was telling my brother about it. . .and he was like "oh yeah, that book. . .I read part of it." Turns out my mom bought it the first time she visited, loved it, and has had it on her shelf for something like 4 years. How funny. Anyway it's great so far.
Chris Tine
Aug 01, 2013 Chris Tine rated it liked it
Quick read. The story line riddled with young testosterone clashing with the handed down culture of those who came before. I enjoyed the account of events despite the unfortunate situations and choices which came the way of the individuals. The book gave me a brief look at a world I would not normally experience, culturally and the dominant narrative of a young male voice. The book was consequently borrowed from a you man...
Feb 16, 2013 Mallory rated it it was amazing
This book came highly recommended by more than one person, and it didn't disappoint. I thought it was well-written and interesting, and while I guess it could be classified as Asian-American lit, it didn't feel like it (in my opinion this is a good thing). It was a fast-paced read, and though I'm biased towards any book that takes place in Hawaii, I thought it was great.
Oct 31, 2008 Kim rated it really liked it
enjoyed the writing of chris mckinney.his characters were hard core,down to the pidgin accents,the attitudes they each carried.i was totally there through the whole book.wasnt even expecting till it was right there in front of me why ken was in jail.just grabbed another one of his books from the library.
Nov 01, 2011 Shawna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Shawna by: Dr.Panek's reading assignment
Shelves: hawaii
I first read this book for a writing class I took in college and it's still as good the second time around. The book shows the non-paradise side of Hawaii. I like McKinney's use of pidgin; it's not too heavy and it makes the characters real.
Oct 19, 2010 Brian rated it liked it
The characters, events and places of this book are so familiar even though this is fiction. Although the events and language are coarse (this book gets an R rating), it helped me to better understand those who "no kea" and do whateva dey like.
Jun 30, 2007 Jen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: students
This book was hard to put down! My students liked this book because they could "relate" to most of this book.

I went to high school with the author and I'm glad a fellow alum is so successful!
Jul 01, 2007 Corinne rated it liked it
Shelves: hawaii
Interesting view of crime in Hawaii from the local perspective. Stories like this in places with a great dependency on tourism rarely get told, making book like this important.
Jul 12, 2009 Ashley rated it it was amazing
This is one of my all time favorite books!! Hawaii is a paradise to many but McKinney shows the true "other" side of the big city in the middle of the pacific.
Sep 09, 2012 Sherrianne rated it it was amazing
Awesome book. For those who grew up in 96744 it makes you really appreciate the culture of being a "taro patch kid". All the back yard tricks and troubles we did.
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