Elegant, brutal, and profound--this magnificent debut captures the grit and glory of modern Hawai'i with breathtaking force and accuracy.

Photo © Brandon Ng

Photo © Brandon Ng

In a stunning collection that announces the arrival of an incredible talent, Kristiana Kahakauwila travels the islands of Hawai'i, making the fabled place her own. Exploring the deep tensions between local and tourist, tradition and expectation, façade and authentic self, This Is Paradise provides an unforgettable portrait of life as it’s truly being lived on Maui, Oahu, Kaua'i and the Big Island.

In the gut-punch of “Wanle,” a beautiful and tough young woman wants nothing more than to follow in her father’s footsteps as a legendary cockfighter. With striking versatility, the title story employs a chorus of voices—the women of Waikiki—to tell the tale of a young tourist drawn to the darker side of the city’s nightlife. “The Old Paniolo Way” limns the difficult nature of legacy and inheritance when a patriarch tries to settle the affairs of his farm before his death.


Exquisitely written and bursting with sharply observed detail, Kahakauwila’s stories remind us of the powerful desire to belong, to put down roots, and to have a place to call home.



“Vividly imagined, beautifully written, at times almost unbearably suspenseful—the stories in Kristiana Kahakauwila’s debut collection This Is Paradise are boldly inventive in their exploration of the tenuous nature of human relations. These are poignant stories of “paradise”—Hawai'i—with all that “paradise” entails of the transience of sensuous beauty. Never could I have imagined that I might read with such sympathy a story narrated by a young woman who trains roosters to fight—but ‘Wanle’ is that story.”       
--Joyce Carol Oates
“The immersive stories of This Is Paradise are a lithe blend of formal invention and traditional narrative pleasures. As such they reflect Kristiana Kahakauwila’s intimate but expansive vision of a Hawai'i forged from the collisions of past and present, here and there. Her protagonists are as richly distinctive as the pidgin they speak, and yet each struggles profoundly with identity—that negotiation between ourselves and the world, which is at once Hawaiian, American, universally and compellingly human.”
--Peter Ho Davies, author of The Welsh Girl

“These six masterful stories move so fluently through their grand old materials—sex, longing, love, loneliness—that it's easy to overlook how fierce they are, and how surprising.  Again and again, Kristiana Kahakauwila renders the complex beauties of her native Hawai'i in a vivid, burning, and altogether original light. Glowing with life, peril, and beautifully scaled human drama, This Is Paradise is full of people you'll never forget, and will never want to.” 
-- Michael Byers, author of Long for this World


“In these lively, accomplished stories, Kristiana Kahakauwila paints a vivid portrait of modern Hawai'i—not the gauzy ideal of tourist vacations, but the messy, fascinating reality of its inhabitants.  This is a impressive debut by a writer to watch.”  
--Alix Ohlin, author of Inside