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Ono Ono Girl's Hula
     

Ono Ono Girl's Hula

by Carolyn Lei-Lanilau
 

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Both playful and serious, this audacious riff on ethnic and sexual identity by Hawaiian-Hakka Chinese-American writer Carolyn Lei-lanilau revolves around the persona she calls “Ono Ono Girl,” an icon that interweaves and transcends Lucille Ball, Little Lulu, Tina Turner, and Spottie Dottie. Challenging assumptions about genre and gender, and acting out

Overview

Both playful and serious, this audacious riff on ethnic and sexual identity by Hawaiian-Hakka Chinese-American writer Carolyn Lei-lanilau revolves around the persona she calls “Ono Ono Girl,” an icon that interweaves and transcends Lucille Ball, Little Lulu, Tina Turner, and Spottie Dottie. Challenging assumptions about genre and gender, and acting out the notion that language is a function of the body, these essays are transforming soundbytes of Ono Ono Girl inventing herself.

“Just when you thought American literature was canonized and commodified beyond saving, Carolyn Lei-lanilau’s intertextual, irreverent work, Ono Ono Girl’s Hula, brings language and philosophy back to the table. Her book is a miracle delivery: a rebirth of poetry, Third World Spam, and love wrapped around the hybrid vigor of Hawaiian, Hakka, French, Latin, and English. Soulful, powerful, and wise.”—Russell Leong, editor of Amerasia Journal

“A book enjoyable equally for its fun as for its profundity, Carolyn Lei-lanilau’s Ono Ono Girl’s Hula is irresistible must reading for feminists, anthropologists, contemporary culture buffs, and anyone who wants a refreshing take on some of our more vexing current disputes. Down-to-earth and poetic, serious and hilarious at once, her unconventional voice invites the reader to understand the paradoxes of identity—sexual and ethnic—in new ways.”—Robin Lakoff, author of Talking Power

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A collection of "chants," as the author calls them, that constitutes a post-Tan/Hong Kingston Amerasian anti-autobiography of sorts.

Lei-lanilau was born in Hawaii of Chinese Hakka heritage into a home where only English was permitted; not until later in life did she discover the pleasures of the Chinese and Hawaiian languages. As she says at the outset of this confounding journal-memoir, these essays "represent the metaphors of many languages in and on the author's tongue and hands." Bored, confused, and disgusted by English (English is dead, she tells us: "Just look at the English monarchy"), Lei-lanilau advises that one must embrace disorder, instead: "I am always be teasing, testing, fooling around with English." Her claim is borne out in the varied typography, dialects, and unconventional line breaks she employs here. She justifies her narrativeless technique always in political terms. Embracing the Hawaiian people and their native culture, Lei-lanilau wants to challenge the common view of Hawaii as "paradise" and succeeds in her account of working inside a pineapple cannery. She's distrustful of traditional authority"the media . . . and the publishing milieuall that white imprinting," she puns, biting with a rather facile impunity the hand that might feed her. An award- winning poet herself, she repeatedly cites William Blake as her hero. While Lei-lanilau's 200-watt brand of radical feminism can be inspiring, her book is just as affecting in its more complex and dappled passages, such as her self-deprecating recollection of returning home from a lackluster night out to find her grown children waiting up for her. If nothing else, Lei-lanilau has the verve of a self only she could create. Maybe she couldn't, and shouldn't, care less whether we like her, so long as we try to understand her.

Boldly irreverent, but also reckless and dissipated, personal writing.

From the Publisher

If you think you know something about what multiculturalism means in real life, read Carolyn Lei-lanilau and think again.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780299156343
Publisher:
University of Wisconsin Press
Publication date:
12/01/1997
Pages:
196
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.50(d)

Meet the Author

Carolyn Lei-lanilau is a poet, artist, and scholar who lives in Oakland, California, and in Honolulu, Hawai'i. Her book Wode Shuofa (My Way of Speaking) received a 1989 American Book Award.  Her poems have been anthologized in five books, including The Best American Poetry of 1996, and have appeared in such journals as The Bloomsbury Review, The American Poetry Review, Manoa, Yellow Silk, Zyzzyva,  and Calyx. She has been a lecturer at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and at West O'ahu, Tianjin Foreign Language Institute in China, and California State University, East Bay. 

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