Lester Higata's 20th Century

Lester Higata's 20th Century

by Barbara Hamby

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781587299421
Publisher: University of Iowa Press
Publication date: 04/15/2010
Series: John Simmons Short Fiction Award Series , #2010
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 176
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Barbara Hamby was raised in Hawai’I and is writer-in-residence in the Creative Writing Program at Florida State University in Tallahassee. She is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Babel and All-Night Lingo Tango. She is also co-editor of the poetry anthology Seriously Funny.Her work has appeared in the Paris Review, Mississippi Review, SouthwestReview, Ploughshares, Shenandoah, TriQuarterly, and the Pushcart Prize Anthology 2001 and was recently awarded a Guggenheim fellowship.

Table of Contents

Contents Lester Higata’s String Theory Paradise (1999) Iniki Chicken (1992) Mr. Manago’s Mango Trees (1988) The Li Hing Mui Fiasco (1986) Linda Higata’s Room (1982) Lani Dances the Zombie Hula in LA (1978) Lester Higata and the Orchid of Divine Retribution (1975) Sayonara, Mrs. Higata (1969) The Thirty Names of Kū (1962) Invasion of the Haoles (1959) Katherine Higata and the Four Japanese Ladies (1952) Lester Higata in Love (1946) Glossary and Bibliography

Customer Reviews

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Lester Higata's 20th Century 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
abealy on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This jewel-like collection of stories is dense and sweet and much too short. As we move back through the second half of the 20th century ¿ beginning with the death of the patriarch Lester Higata ¿ his wife, children, parents and neighbors form bonds and weave a web that colors the events that enfold them. War, hurricane and the messy detritus of human life inform the drama of each self-contained tale. All the characters are fully formed, from Lester and his wife Katherine, to the mother and mother-in-law, both strong and stubborn women ¿ the one to her Buddhist heritage; the other to the rural Christianity of her native Ohio ¿ through his children and the community around them. The stories are informed by a deep understanding of the Hawaiian psyche while presenting tales of universal relevance. This book, if I had any say, deserves the Pulitzer.I hope Barbara Hamby has more to tell about the life of Lester Higata.
snash on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Lester Higata's 20th Century is an excellent selection of interrelated short stories reminding me in format to Olive Kitteridge. The Hawaiian setting gives the book lushness and cultural diversity. The characters are multidimensional and interesting. I love that the stories are set at progressively earlier times so that a character is met and then in a later story there are clues as to how they came to be as they were. It was a rich, thought provoking, excellent book.
MissReadsTooMuch on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I don't usually read short stories. I like to sink into a book and live it for a while. That said, I really do love intertwined short stories - separate tales with both new characters and characters from other stories in the book. It allows the author to tell us lots of stories but to still have character development of those in the book, even when they are not at the forefront. The author is very adept at this and the collection is a pleasure to read. The characters are interesting and real. Hamby writes beautifully about Hawaii - giving the reader a taste of how wonderful the place is and how living there can be, about how even in the most picturesque places, life is still very real and messy. It was interesting to have the stories go backwards in time - an unusual approach perhaps but it works very well. A great read that I would recommend to anyone who likes beautiful prose, short stories or is dreaming about a trip to Hawaii.
jsiegcola on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I received a lovely little book from Early Reviewers and found myself quickly and quietly whisked away to the Hawaiian Islands I only dream about and hope to visit one day. Barbara Hamby's book, "Lester Higata's 20th Century", works the way our own memories do, from the current day to our earliest recollection. At first the collapsing back into time seems confusing, but soon the reader let's go of the need for chronological order and begins to enjoy the revelations both minute and expansive. The main character reflects on the people in his life from his mainlander wife to the mix of neighbors who all played a part in his long life. Each memory brings us closer to who Lester was, just as the compilations of our own life events make for a whole person. Read this book as a collection of short stories or as an unraveling thread that was once the fabric of Lester's life...either way, you will come away recognizing much about Hawaii and the effects that colonization, war, ecology, and greed play in all of our lives.
bunkie68 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I received this book through the Early Reviewers program. Not sure what in the LT algorithm matched me up with it, but I'm glad I read it! The book begins at the end of Lester Higata's life and works its way backward through a series of stories about Lester, his family, and other people in his life. Some characters drew me to them more than others, just as some of the stories resonated with me more so than others, but it was a lovely read overall. I felt like these were people I knew, like they could be people who lived down the street or across town from me (well, if I lived in Hawaii, anyway). It's a gentle, engaging, well-written book, and it makes me want to go see Hawaii for myself.
richardderus on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Not every author has the fortitude to start a collection of stories with a story about the death of the title character. Hamby is to be applauded for this, it's gutsy! It isn't extremely successful, though, beacuse the unspooling of Lester Higata's life from 1946 to 1999 is unevenly presented and unevenly edited, as quite some several of these stories appeared in other venues before being collected here.The very best story, the chef d'ouevre, is the delightful, fresh, energetic story of Lester's last day: "Lester Higata's String Theory Paradise." Waking up to a conversation with your dead father, one in which he bashes your equally dead Gorgon of a mother, is a pretty good clue that the rest of the day isn't going to be normal. And it is, oddly, very normal in its events and yet Lester's certainty that this is his last day on Earth manages to make all its events sharp and clear and dear to him. It's an excellent story. It's no surprise to me that this story appeared in TriQuarterly and was edited by the superb, talented, and very accomplished Susan Hahn. She impressed me mightily in our one professional contact, when she bought a story from one of my then-clients in my former life as an agent.Well, I said the collection was uneven...and the next story, "Iniki Chicken", is proof of this. In and of itself, it's not a bad little piece, but it needed a pruning before being put in the show. It appeared in Southwestern Review, which magazine has a decent reputation, but the piece has an overwordy quality that detracts from Hamby's clean and simple message: "Looking at all the people gathered around the table, I wondered how so many different faces could be made in the image of one God? Maybe the Hawaiians were right, and there were many gods: {there follows a list of four gods and their areas of expertise, taking up a long paragraph}...But if there was only one God what could he possibly be like?..." A taut meditation on the nature of spiritual belief and its relationship to human interaction becomes a comparative religion lecture, and loses force and clarity. SO frustrating!The strong stories outnumber the weak ones, fortunately: "Mr. Manago's Mango Trees" is bleak, but wryly witty; "Lani Dances the Zombie Hula in LA" is a spare, cold-eyed flensing of the way promise gets transmogrified into failure and misery; "Sayonara, Mrs. Higata" pitilessly shows the too-late-ness of deathbed regrets, and the hollow-yet-shining face of Duty's Daughters; and "Lester Higata in Love" is heartbreakingly tender and beautifully rendered, its landscape of love's losses and joys as mountainous as O'ahu itself.The University of Iowa press sent this ARC to me as part of the Early Reviewers program. It's a pleasure to be able to recommend the collection to any reader even slightly interested in the geography of love.
taramatchi on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This was like a Hawaiian version of [book:Olive Kitteridge|1736739] to me. Told in short stories or vignettes, it shares a piece of Hawaii with the reader. I think those who are not familiar with the islands or the way people native to the islands speak may find the dialog a bit tedious...but I could be wrong. I enjoyed feeling like I was with my family and chuckled when I heard familiar phrases. It is a bit disjointed and I had a hard time following who in the family each story was about and think that a family tree in the book would have been very helpful. All in all though I found each short story to be equally engaging and well-done.
oldman on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Lester Higata's Twentieth Century was a book of revalation for me. My recently deceased father-in-law was second generation Japanese and grew up in Hawaii. His most common comment concerning the weather was , "I should've stayed in the Islands." So many similarities between Lester's and my father-in-law are in the stories that Lester is nearly a biographical sketch of his life. The similarities go from being in WWII (same brigade), injured in the legs, marrying a 'haole' girl and many others. The major difference was that he stayed in the cold Midwest and Lester stayed in Hawaii. Incredible similar stories. At first then, I had a difficult time attaching to the stories, as I saw someone else as Lester. After a few of the stories though I began to see Hawaii, the warmth, the people and, towards the last several stories I became totally engrossed with a "is that what it was like?" sensation. Lipona Street became a neighborhood with different people, cultures and ways of seeing the world. The end of the stories left me wanting to see the Islands, meet the people (especially the family still in the Islands) and feel that warmth. I can't help but give 5 stars to this book - it took me to a place I always wanted to experience.
gwendolyndawson on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Lester Higata¿s 20th Century is a collection of linked short stories that share many narrative events and characters. Each story takes place at an earlier point in time than the preceding story, giving the overall effect of a narrative moving backwards through time. I thoroughly enjoyed this innovative structure, and, by the end of the book, I felt involved in the lives of the primary characters. I also enjoyed the novel's Hawaiian setting. Hawaii has a rich and diverse culture that I've rarely seen explored in fiction. Overall, Lester Higata's 20th Century is a rewarding read.
checkadawson on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This collection of linked short stories was such an interesting journey. Barbara Hamby clearly knows and loves Hawaii, and she uses this setting to explore themes of diversity, intergenerational conflict, love and family, and mental illness. The short-story format allowed Hamby to cover a huge amount of time with the narrative while, at the same time, focusing on the minute details of the most important events. Very enjoyable overall.
lisalangford on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I was frustrated with this book when I first started reading it. It felt as though the author loved Hawaii so much that she crammed a lot of information about Hawaii into the stories - details about plants (Latin names, detailed descriptions), Hawaiian history, WWII history, Hawaiian geography, etc. I seemed that she was using the characters to comment on Hawaii, rather than having engrossing characters living and having Hawaii be the setting..."Honolulu is growing so fast," Lester said 'We have to come up with a solution for the traffic problem. That's what my office is working on now. I favor a railway system instead of highways, with satellite cities in the outer parts of the island - Wai'anae, Waipahu, Waialua, La'ie. People could find affordable housing in these towns and then ride the train into Hololulu for work.'"'Won't that be expensive?', his father-in-law asked? He was sitting on a lawn chair, his white shirt glowing in the half-light, the end of his cigarette hovering around his face."'Sure, but it's the best solution for the island. In the long run it will be cheaper than paving over the land. I just hope we can convince the legislature.'"Perhaps people who are very familiar with the islands would appreciate all the Hawaiian info. It didn't do much for me. The characters did eventually emerge for me through the course of the book, for instance, I really liked the story where Lester's mother was dying and secrets are divulged...Thank you, librarything, for sharing books with us through the Early Reviewer program.
Hayyan More than 1 year ago
I don't usually read short stories. I like to sink into a book and live it for a while. That said, I really do love intertwined short stories - separate tales with both new characters and characters from other stories in the book. It allows the author to tell us lots of stories but to still have character development of those in the book, even when they are not at the forefront. The author is very adept at this and the collection is a pleasure to read. The characters are interesting and real. Hamby writes beautifully about Hawaii - giving the reader a taste of how wonderful the place is and how living there can be, about how even in the most picturesque places, life is still very real and messy. It was interesting to have the stories go backwards in time - an unusual approach perhaps but it works very well. A great read that I would recommend to anyone who likes beautiful prose, short stories or is dreaming about a trip to Hawaii.