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Heads by Harry

3.9  ·  Rating details ·  200 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
You can always count on a crowd outside Heads by Harry, the Yagyuu family's taxidermy shop in Hilo, where the regulars gather every day to drink beer, eat smoked meat, and pontificate into the pau hana hours.  But above the shop, where the family lives, life isn't so predictable. Toni Yagyuu, the middle child, has enough on her hands dealing with her budding diva of a litt ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 7th 2000 by Harper Perennial (first published February 1st 1999)
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Feb 25, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was reading this while in Hawaii & had fun with the use of pidgin & descriptions of local culture, which I could hear around me & embrace. The coming-of-ageness may have carried on too long & played out like a Hawaiian-style Cameron Crowe film.
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It was really good and made me think.
Brittany Laccetti
Jan 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Out of the three Yamanaka books I have read, Heads By Harry is definitely the most "mature". By mature, I mean the characters are more matured. I don't know if this is just because her main characters in Heads By Harry are older, but I didn't find myself cringing at every thing.

Heads By Harry focuses around a family whose line of business is taxidermy. That fact alone makes Heads By Harry unique. Whenever there is a problem it seems as if the main character, Toni, rips apart the skin of an anima
Nov 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2010
When I finished Yamanaka's previous book (Blu's Hanging) I concluded that she was a talented artist with questionable politics. In Heads By Harry, I find her exactly opposite -- admirable politics, questionable artistry. Like a lot of semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tales, this one takes itself way too seriously. The dead animals. The emphasis on piss and shit. The abuse of the word "sassy". All reasons this book is in almost every way inferior to Blu's Hanging. I didn't love that book eithe ...more
Mar 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I was still at the Writer's Workshop when I first heard Lois Ann Yamanaka read selections from her book, Saturday Night at the Pahala Theatre. A friend played it for me. She had a cassette of Yamanaka reading her poems.

That was over a decade ago.

I don't know why it has taken me so long to read one of her novels. For the time, she was one of the few Asian American poets/writers who presented a more gritty and more human voice. Her characters spoke freely of sex, loss, and drugs.

I thoroughly enj
Feb 07, 2010 rated it it was ok
It helps to be "local" when reading this book because Pidgen is the "language" used throughout and it makes the reading slow for those of us who were not raised locally in Hawaii.
I would have given this book one star because it seemed to be without plot or reason for most of the book, however by the last third of the book it bacame obvious that it was a chunk of the main character's life from when she was a child until she came into her own.
Be prepared for very course language which seems with
Lake Oz Fic Chick
Life as the daughter of a Hawaiian taxidermist is not as glamorous as you might imagine. If you’re Toni Yagyuu, you’re surrounded every day by taxidermy shop regulars, smoking and talking trash. There’s your obnoxious little sister yearning for stardom, the good-looking guy next door who doesn’t seem to know you’re alive, the closeted older brother hoping to become a hairdresser, and the dad who takes you hunting but always seems to be expecting something from you he’s not seeing. Yamanaka has b ...more
Feb 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book has the great story, compelling characters, and marvelous description that I expect from Yamanaka. I don't think this is Yamanaka's best example of child narrator. Certainly not like "Blu's Hanging" or "Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers." I had read this book kind of hoping for that, but this narrator ages more during the course of the book than the other books I mentioned. Even when she is young, she seems very adult without the reasons that the characters in the other books did. Still, ...more
Mar 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
i read this book in high school and loved it, i have little recollection of the specific story other than its about a japanese american girl growing up in hawaii with her gay older brother and pretty younger sister. her dad owns a taxidermy shop and she wants to take over someday but her dad sees it as a mans job. i just remember really loving this book. i think i will have to read it again. oh and apparently its the 3rd book in a trilogy which i just found out when i looked up the book to put i ...more
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite
One of my new favorites. Toni is a middle child in a Japanese family. They live in Hawaii; her mother is a teacher and her father owns a taxidermy shop. It is so, SO much better than it sounds.

The majority of the dialogue is in Hawaiian pidgin. I love reading dialect when it is well-written and realistic, and Heads by Harry did not disappoint. At times it felt as if I could hear the characters talking out loud, it was so good. Also calling someone a "fucking tuna" is now in my repertoire.
Nicole G.
Aug 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008
I remember reading Blu's Hanging a long time ago, and I still find that one better, but this was still very good. Yamanaka's prose is very evocative, and the characters are fully formed. Toni, the middle child, wants to work with her father, who owns a taxidermy shop, but he feels it is not woman's work. He wants her to finish college and make something of herself, but Toni finds herself drifting through life, trying to prove herself.
Feb 06, 2008 rated it liked it
I was a huge fan of Yamanaka's previous two books. This one, while not my favorite, was also fairly good. The story was heartbreaking even though the characters were some of the most obnoxious ever. The whole "being trapped in the life that has been made for you" sort of plot allows for you to understand just why they are the way they are.
Oct 29, 2010 rated it liked it
It was hard to get into the pidgin dialect, but once I do the book was an interesting look into the culture and lives of Hawaii's mixed race populations - especially those of Japanese heritage. Did kept wishing through the entire book that the main character would stop being such a wimp and show some backbone!
May 10, 2010 rated it liked it
An eye-opening look at Hawaii as a place where real people live and face the same kinds of everyday problems as the rest of us. Japanese-Americans in Hawaii have a unique culture, different from Japanese-Americans on the west coast.
Apr 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This author reminds me of Augusten Burroughs. The stories are facinating and heart breaking but a little funny.
Feb 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Another good book, but this one was a little more edgy. I felt for the main character.
Aug 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hawaii, fiction
Really liking this so far... I love the pidgin English, racial tension, and local history of the Big Island.
Jason Nomura
Jun 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hawaii
Great portrait of life in Hilo and the characters resound of local flavor.
Dec 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Another great one from Yamanaka. Back to Hawaii for more glimpses into family life that are touching, embarrassing and very real.
Sep 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book brought me back home. It was a great taste of Hawaii in the 70s. I do think the pidgin may slow down readers who aren't from HI.
Belle Antoinette
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Lauri Saplad
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Oct 30, 2016
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Feb 11, 2010
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Dec 12, 2007
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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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