Monday, March 21, 2011

Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell

Unfamiliar FishesUnfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the 7th grade, I, like every other terrified adolescent, entered the classroom to study my state's history. My own teacher was the archaic Mr. Brown. Mr. Brown must have been nearing retirement. Although I took Utah History in the late 1970's, I am certain that Mr. Brown was a member of a handcart group that traversed the country well over a hundred years earlier. In his polyester suit, Mr. Brown droned about one or another trapper or explorer while I tried to stay awake by concentrating on the direction his strabismus eyes were pointing or the pattern on his hands formed with age spots.

It was stellar year.

Now imagine being an emotional adolescent in a state history class where the teacher is Sarah Vowell as she laments her culinary experiences in Hawaii where she was assaulted with foods that do not belong on the same plate like kalua pig, chicken adobo, teriyaki beef, or Loco Moco (a hamburger patty topped with gravy and a fried egg, a dish presumably invented to remedy what has always been the hamberger's most obvious defect - not enough egg). - Sarah Vowell.

Later she discusses the missionaries who arrive in Hawaii to convert the heathens to Christianity and throw in Genesis to justify their conversions. My favorite is p. 49 of ARC, "... In fact, the fruit of knowledge poisons them to fancy ideas and so they are cast out of a garden bearing a striking resemblance to the island of Kauai. (Though having been to the pleasantly sleepy Kauai, I can see how after a few days of lollygagging amidst the foliage a woman would bite into just about anything to scare up something to read). Sarah, take your Kindle.

Naturally, Sarah could not be my Utah History teacher because Hawaii is so very different from Utah. But wait! This is a history of the Hawaiian Islands and their conversion to Christianity! Captain Cook is glossed over to some degree - probably because he left behind multiple STDs that significantly cut the population and may have introduced leprosy (another book I read on Hawaii which I loved called "Mokokai") but the missionaries began arriving to teach the natives. Lo and behold, Brigham Young sent Walter Murray Gibson to the islands as a missionary. Okay, that didn't really work out very well. Gibson sold titles and priesthood to the natives then bought up land. He was recalled to Utah where the charges were proved true. He was excommunicated and ordered to return the money to the natives. He refused. So he returned to Hawaii to satisfy his delusions of grandeur.

I can see why that little tidbit was not taught during Utah History.

Excellent history book, bringing life and humor to an otherwise dry recitation of fact.

1 comment:

Evie said...

Wonderful review, thanks for sharing your thoughts, I will definitely read it if I get a chance:) I am your new follower, let's connect!