Book Notification

Jasmin Iolani Hakes Books In Order

Book links take you to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate I earn money from qualifying purchases.

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Jasmin Iolani Hakes
Jasmin ‘Iolani Hakes was born and grew up in Hilo, Hawai’i. Her essays have appeared in the Sacramento Bee and the Los Angeles Times.

She is the recipient of the Hedgebrook residency in 2018. She won the Best Fiction Award from the Southern California Writers Conference.

Her debut novel, “Hula”, was inspired in part by her family oral history which spoke to having Hawaiian blood, albeit undocumented, along with her journey as a mom, raising a daughter that is native Hawaiian on paper and one that isn’t.

Hula, in some way or another, has been a part of her life ever since she was born. So the novel was in large part also a homage to the profound impact and role that hula continues to have on her community, the culture she was raised in, and her family.

However the deeper threads of the novel were inspired by her own insecurity that she harbored for too long to admit about her blue-gray eyes and fair skin, in part because she looked nothing like her mom or her wider family but also because she grew up in Keaukaha, where there was this fierce protectiveness of the area along with an acute awareness of the often oblivious and sometimes disrespectful antics of tourists and those that were new to the area.

She noticed that she would get treated differently by white hotel employees and store managers, and was deeply horrified and ashamed by it.

As she got older this insecurity continued growing and did a lot of damage with her home. So she left. “Hula” is the result of living anywhere else for years and attempting to understand her cultural inheritance and the role she played in her own family, along with the connection to the land itself.

The novel was her way of channeling all of these complex questions of belonging and identity which had haunted her for her entire life, while also being a public declaration of her love and deep appreciation for her hometown and her roots.

“Hula” was the title from the very beginning, and there was never a question at any time of changing it. It is a bold choice. The choreography and chants of every hula are taught by cultural practitioners that have earned this role through years of apprenticeship and study.

As much as she wanted to write a story about a girl dreaming about becoming this next Miss Aloha Hula (and all of the complications which would accompany such an ambition), she needed to be clear from the first page that she’s not even an expert on the artform. It’s not a book that will teach you hula.

Rather than a book about hula, she envisioned the story itself as a kind of literary hula. A hula can tell a story about a historical figure, a geological event, a myth, and in short, be a performative snapshot. She wanted to write an ode to her hometown of Hilo and, especially, the neighborhood of Keaukaha where she spent so much of her youth. That’s why she divided the story into verses.

Jasmin wrote the novel during a writing residency at Hedgebrook. She’d been working on this other novel for about 10 years by that point, and had decided to shelve it. When she got the invite from Hedgebrook, she was almost tempted to decline the offer, thinking that she was done with writing, however her loved ones just would not hear of it.

During the plane, bus, and ferry ride to get there, the first sentence came to her. Which she wrote down. By the time she had arrived, the pages of her notebook were filled with scribbles.

She’d never been offered something like this before, space and time to write, so every day there she continued telling herself that she could not afford to waste a second getting lost in her own head. She wrote until she cried, wrote until her fingers and her brain hurt. And the words just somehow kept on coming.

Dance has always been central to Jasmin’s creativity and life. She took her first hula class when she was just four years old and danced for the esteemed Halau o Kekuhi and the Tahitian troupe Hitia O Te Ra. She’d later partially put herself through college as a professional luau dancer. Other jobs that she has held include cleaning houses, lei greeter, shelving books at the Hilo Public Library, and TSA agent at the Kona Airport.

She left the islands and worked in politics as well as in the nonprofit sector, raising her kids in various continents and cities.

“Hula” is the first stand alone novel and was released in 2023. Set in Hilo, Hawai’i, this sweeping saga of culture, history, family, tradition, and connection which unfolds through the lives of three generation of women, a story of moms and daughters, destiny, and dance.

There isn’t any running away on an island. Before long, you just wind up right back where you started.

Hi’i is proud to be a Naupaka, a family that is renowned for its contributions to hula and her hometown of Hilo, Hawaii, however there is so much that she does not understand. She has never met her legendary grandma and her mom never revealed the identity of her dad to her. Even worse, unspoken divides inside of her tight knit community have begun growing, which creates fractures whose own origins have somehow gotten entangled with her own family history.

In hula, Hi’i sees this opportunity to live up to her name and solidify her place within her family legacy. However to win the next Miss Aloha Hula competition, she’ll have to turn her back on everything that she was ever taught, and possibly even lose the thing that she was fighting for in the first place.

Told in part of the collective voice of this community that is fighting for its survival “Hula” is a spellbinding debut novel which offers a rare glimpse into this forgotten kingdom which still exists in its people’s hearts.

ELLE’s 39 Best New Books to Read on Summer of 2023 and was a Harper’s Bazaar 23 Best Summer Beach Read of 2023.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Jasmin Iolani Hakes

Leave a Reply