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He Mele A Hilo (A Hilo Song)
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He Mele A Hilo (A Hilo Song)

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  125 ratings  ·  21 reviews
Something strange is happening in Hilo. Noleani Choi’s new show about the life of Jesus Christ told through hula dance has everyone, especially her halau, wondering what she could possibly be thinking. Rumors circulate about a rich guy from the mainland, and the dancers and their friends must reckon with what is really hula, who is Hawaiian enough, and why each of them wan ...more
Paperback, 310 pages
Published 2014 by Topside Signature
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He Mele A Hilo: A Hilo Song by Ryka Aoki is a story populated with the most wonderfully diverse characters and voices. I was surprised that I did not need to take notes to keep all the characters straight, which has been necessary for so many of my other reads lately. What a breath of fresh air! It is a story of belonging, family, food, identity, spirituality, and hula all woven together with rain, ocean, lava and land. It is exactly the kind of beautiful soul escape I needed and perhaps many co ...more
Apr 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An incredible first novel from Ryka Aoki full of myth, food, music and heart. He Mele A Hilo follows an endlessly endearing ensemble of characters (who speak and are described in the local language of Pidgin) - their stories entwine and unravel at a relaxed pace that fits perfectly with the themes Aoki's working with. The narrative slowly peels back the edges of our world to reveal a magic that is at once mysterious and divine and as ordinary and knowable as spam. I usually find myself slogging ...more
Jacob Wren
Nov 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I cried through the last fifty pages of this book. Perhaps the closest I've ever come to tears of joy while reading.
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
pretty much cried straight through this one and don't think it was only cuz i'm gonna bleed soon. there's without a doubt an immensity of depth i'm missing partially through language (it's written in hawaiian pidgin english) & partially through my lack of knowledge about the gods of those islands and their stories. what i received from this book were pictures of some rare & sweet kinds of romance & partnership, some subtle & complex kinds of growth in community, and also a relationship to innate ...more
Apr 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
"He Mele A Hilo" is a story about love, faith, friendship, and identity. Written in Hawaiian pidgen English, the narrator weaves several individual tales together to create one large story. Some transitions between voices will feel choppy to those unused to folktales and traditional story telling. All in all, the cadence and language feel warm. Ryka Aoki has done a wonderful job immersing the reader in Hawaiian culture, and bringing to life the lives of Harry, Nona, Noelani, Kam, and Steve, to n ...more
Yee-Ning S.
May 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
A clarion call to love thyself and others and all the mistakes and flaws that come along in the package, He Mele A Hilo is a fun, relaxing read about personal growth and identity with a colourful backdrop of Hawaii, its landscape and culture, food, dancing, music, and even language (teaching you Hawaiian local slang throughout the book). Aoki creates rich vignettes of characters and links them together in her microcosm of the world, and as we uncover more and more about each character through th ...more
Sep 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I absolutely LOVE this novel. Since I'm at work, and have already spent the first hour here finishing the book, I'll keep this quick. This book is full of characters who have deep histories with each other, with their families and communities and with the islands. You'll love this book if you're into seeing the world as full of ancient magic and believe that our past is always part of our present. I could hear all the voices as I read though I did have to make liberal use of the hawaiian pidgin ...more
Apr 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
I thought this was a hidden gem of a book - I'm glad I managed to get it on ILL, as not that many libraries have it. I like how it felt kind of like a goofy soap opera but then had a lot of emotional complexity to it, at least for the first 3/4 of the book. Then it got kind of heavy handed and repetitive with its lessons of everyone learning to accept themselves and focus on what brings them joy and not what other people think of them. But still, I liked the variety of internal dilemmas the char ...more
Bishaaro Ahmed
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is amazing boook
Vivien Ryder
May 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Ryka's He Mele A Hilo is a delicious read. Set in Hawaii, this lush, comforting story explores ideas of identity, propriety and belonging. Following and joining the threads of her characters' searches for authenticity, Ryka gives us a view of Hawaii from many sets of eyes. Conversational in tone and pace, this book is an example of storytelling done by someone who excels at connecting to their audience and delivering characters who are believably whole human beings, worthy of our love and attent ...more
Jun 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really loved this. It's one of those books where you smile fondly later when something reminds you of one of the characters like you would about someone you know in real life.

I read this as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge (for the own voices Oceania prompt) and also because I was traveling to Hawaii and wanted to read something by someone who was from there. I finished it on the plane and I think I referenced it more than any guidebook we took with us.

I would read a whole series w
May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It is a wonderfully written novel, flowing and structured at the same time, the characters are individuals and archetypes, and Hawaii and its spirit is most definitely the heart of the story. I haven't been touched like this by a book in a very long time.
Aug 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved the characters! I've been carrying this to the pool all summer and am sad to be finished. I will miss them!
Jul 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
He Mele a Hilo (A Hilo Song) is a delicious novel, filled with vibrant portraits of its characters. Not to be missed.
Kathleen Clifford
Mar 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Wonderful, magic portrait of a small community in Hilo, Hawaii. Aoki's characters are richly conceived. I'm excited to check out other titles from Topside Press.
Stephanie Nguyen
Apr 13, 2020 rated it liked it
He Mele a Hilo is a story of a mish mash of native and Mainlander characters living in the Hilo Town on Hawai'i island. Mainly, we see each characters' individual journeys to "finding themselves" and confident in who they are. The cast of characters are endearing and charming. I can identify with most of them. Yet, the structure of the book--heavy dialogue and quick transitions from one characters' story to another--prevented me from actually knowing each characters' history. I didn't really kno ...more
Dec 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a great first novel from Ryka Aoki, full of heart, culture and food. Aoki does a great job of creating wonderfully developed characters with their own unique personalities. She does a fantastic job of incorporating different cultures and blending them together to tell a story of finding one's destiny. The only drawback I found while reading the book was the constant "deus ex machina" elements. From quirky old women who disappear and reappear when needed, to Hawaiian goddesses who just ha ...more
Paul Jr.
Sep 25, 2014 added it
Shelves: dnf
Could not get through it. Tried 7 times. Made it to page 125 before i gave up. Good ideas but drags and plot details that come out of nowhere. Didn't seem to know exactly what it wanted to be. Can't rate since I didn't finish it.
Jan 01, 2017 added it
The magic realism was sometimes laid on a bit thick--and I like the genre!--but the setting is wonderfully developed, and I really enjoyed the characters and was moved by their evolution over the course of the story.
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017
Couldn't get into it. Wasn't interesting to me.
Ryan Lovett
rated it it was amazing
Nov 17, 2015
rated it really liked it
Dec 07, 2016
Trish Salah
rated it it was amazing
May 27, 2017
Ryan Lovett
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Nov 17, 2015
Cameron Sant
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Nov 07, 2016
Kerry Hill
rated it it was amazing
Mar 02, 2020
Mackenzie Houck
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Jan 25, 2020
Susan H.
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May 09, 2015
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Nov 15, 2018
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Jan 19, 2017
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Books & Boba: Seeing Hawaii Through "He Mele A Hilo" 1 12 Jul 06, 2017 03:22PM  

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Ryka Aoki is a writer, performer, judo black belt, and professor of English at Santa Monica College.

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