One of the things that is different about Honolulu (some neighborhoods more than others) as compared to other cities I’ve been to or lived in, is how many elderly people there are walking down the street, on the bus, at the grocery store, just about anywhere you go. One building where I lived had an odd mixture of Korean bar girls, ex-military, and elderly women. One experience while living at that building (which I won’t relate because I think it doesn’t matter that much to the general reader’s understanding or appreciation) prompted me to write this story.
I think I should say first that this story is an invention. This is an obvious thing about all fiction, I know, but it’s important to note that there is no Anuenue Plantation (on Oahu), and there is no law (so far as I know) that provides the kind of funding I wrote about. There is, however, a real government provision passed by Congress in 1921 (the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act) that wouldn’t exist without Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole (the “highway” guy and the “street” and “park” and “beach” guy) that leases land to Native Hawaiians for next to nothing. This, of course, is a kind of reparation paid by the U.S. for having usurped Hawaiian sovereignty, an act that President Cleveland describes as “wholly without justification,” which means that it was illegal (read Cleveland’s full address at http://www.hawaii-nation.org/cleveland.html). While this illegal act seems unrelated to Director Murasaki’s land grants to “veterans who are permanent residents of Oahu, and/or their spouses, and the descendants of certain kinds of laborers of the old system,” I think the illegal annexation of Hawaii isn’t that different from Japanese internment and segregation of Japanese American soldiers to the 442nd regiment, and, though it’s a bit of a stretch, the plantation culture that dominated before, during, and shortly after annexation. But all of this is in the background of Dorothy’s story.
The main question I had when I wrote this story was this: who can really live on Oahu now? I’d see these older people inching down the street, and I, having a vague idea how different the island was when they were young, wondered how they could afford to live here anymore. Then, I thought about all the young people I knew—the “Kauas” of the island—who could only afford to live with their parents and were lucky even to work. And all this due to outsiders and people with a lot of money coming to the island and buying a bunch of property and driving prices up to the sky for the regular people. (This is of course my own opinion of the situation, I don’t know if this is necessarily true or isn’t true.)
So it’s with this question in mind— “who is able to live on oahu?”—that I wrote a story about a widow who needs to make a choice about where she lives.