Recently I was in Hawaii on vacation and one of the things I noticed right away was how Asians are the majority of the people living there. In the city of Honolulu on Oahu, street signs are in English and Japanese. Generally rice, and even miso soup, are served with all meals, including breakfast. I learned from attending a luau that immigrants from Japan, China, and the Philippines make up a big part of Hawaii’s cultural diversity. When I got back home, a quick web search revealed that Hawaii is the only state in the United States where whites are not the majority of the population.

Years ago, when traveling in Asia, I had a similar experience of suddenly being part of the majority instead of a minority. In separate trips to Taiwan and Japan, I stopped and looked down a busy city street, and stared in awe at a sea of Asian faces—a surreal experience for me. While we are based in New York City, and are fortunate to have a diverse population here, it is unusual for me to have a majority perspective. This is why travel is important. It gives us the opportunity to gain perspectives we wouldn’t normally have otherwise.

My Hawaiian trip also gave me insight into the importance of one of our books. In 2007 we published Surfer of the Century about surfing legend and Olympic medalist Duke Kahanamoku. At the time, I had never heard of Duke, but my trip to Hawaii solidified his fame for me in a big way. In Hawaii his name and image are everywhere. Streets and lagoons bear his name. A big bronze statue of Duke even stands in front of Kuhio beach in Waikiki in Oahu, the statue’s arms adorned with leis made of orchids, placed there by admirers. Now, though, tourist shops are full of bobble heads of Barack Obama smiling broadly, with a surfboard under one arm: Hawaii’s new local hero. Aloha, everyone!

10 thoughts on “Majority”

  1. Hi Jason – glad you enjoyed Hawaii – we are there at the moment, staying right opposite the Duke statue. I wish more of the Hawaii schools knew abt the book – is there any way that I can let them know it exists? Its weird that Texas seems to have more copies than Hawaii! Aloha to you and Lee and Low .. Ellie (author of Surfer of the Century)

  2. Hi Ellie,
    Yes, we enjoyed Hawaii very much. It has definitely been challenging to get the book known in Hawaii. I’ll email you separately about what we’ve tried so far. Although, having your book included on the Texas Bluebonnet Master List will make it possible for kids in Texas to become familiar with Duke’s accomplishments – a big plus for the book.

  3. Hi Jason,
    Great pic of you and sons in Hawaii!
    I can definitely identify with your comment on being in the minority. As a proud African-American in NYC you tend to forget that if you count peoples of color in the world at large, we are really the majority. However, in small settings such as college campuses it seems otherwise unless one attends a Black school.
    But it is nice to get that affirmation when I go to Atlanta and see all those Black people doing well and living well and the streets are lined with “us” everywhere. That is why I love Lee & Low and what you mission stands for and am proud to be associated with you as an author.
    Keep it up!!


  4. I love going to New Mexico because Hispanics are everywhere! Businesses, government officials and news anchors have our last names; beauty shops know how to cut my type of hair; local radio stations play the music of la gente (the people); and I can find books written by people like me.

  5. Funny that you mention haircuts. I remember getting a haircut in Taiwan and although painful (for some reason they tug your hair a lot, which might be some weird Taiwanese massage technique)I did get a really good haircut. Guess they know Asian hair.

  6. I grew up in Hawaii, and I am grateful for the experiences I had living in such a wonderfully diverse place.

    When I moved to the mainland as an adult, I found myself surrounded by other Caucasians. Even though these people looked like me, it made me very uncomfortable at first.

    I’ve been following Tu Publishing with great interest, and I am excited by your acquisition of them. I look forward to great things!

  7. Interesting comment, Don. An absence of diversity can seem jarring when one is used to having it around. Yes, we are really excited about Tu as well – it’s going to fun!

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