kuʻualoha hoʻomanawanui, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in English, was recently awarded Honorable Mention for the Modern Language Association prize for Studies in Native American Literatures, Cultures, and Languages for her first book, Voices of Fire: Reweaving the Literary Lei of Pele and Hiʻiaka (University of Minnesota Press).
Voices of Fire seeks to restore literature about volcano goddess Pele and her youngest sister Hi‘iaka, patron of hula, to its rightful place in Native culture and identity. Stories of Pele and Hi‘iaka are most familiar as a form of literary colonialism—first translated by missionary descendants and others, then co-opted by Hollywood and the tourism industry. Voices of Fire recovers the lost and often-suppressed political significance of this literature.
The committee’s citation for the honorable mention reads:
ku‘ualoha ho‘omanawanui’s Voices of Fire: Reweaving the Literary Lei of Pele and Hi‘iaka represents the best of a growing body of scholarship in the field of Indigenous literary studies that engages Indigenous languages and draws on Indigenous intellectual traditions to present, contextualize, and analyze Indigenous literatures more effectively across genres and media. ho‘omanawanui’s Voices of Fire is a beautiful and in-depth cultural production, an act of critical sovereignty, and it is at the forefront of efforts to revitalize Hawaiian literary nationalism.
The acknowledgements don’t stop with the honorable mention. ho’omanawanui is also a contributor to the top prize winner selected by the Modern Language Association, The Oxford Handbook of Indigenous Literature. To be a part of the top prize and the only honorable mention prize is unprecedented. Further, ho’omanawanui is the first Native Hawaiian scholar to receive this national prize.
ho‘omanawanui is a Kanaka Maoli nationalist, scholar, aloha ‘āina advocate, poet, and visual artist born in Kailua, Ko‘olaupoko, O‘ahu and raised in Kaipuha‘a (Wailua Homesteads), Puna, Kaua‘i. She specializes in Hawaiian and Oceanic literatures, place-based writing, and indigenous literacy. She is a former Ford Foundation pre-doctoral and doctoral fellow, and a Mellon Hawai‘i post-doctoral fellow. Her artwork, poetry, and short fiction in Hawaiian and English have been internationally published and translated. ho’omanawanui is also a founding and chief editor of ‘Ōiwi: A Native Hawaiian Journal, which features Native Hawaiian writers and artists.
About the Modern Language Association
Founded in 1883, the Modern Language Association of America and its 25,000 members in 100 countries work to strengthen the study and teaching of languages and literature. More information is available at www.mla.org.
The College of Languages, Linguistics & Literature (one of the four Arts & Sciences colleges) of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa offers a broad curriculum in English, foreign and heritage languages and literatures, second language studies, and linguistics. Its Asia and Pacific focused curricula is unique in the nation. The faculty regularly teaches more than 25 languages, and has the capacity to teach many more.
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hoomanawanui-press-release (PDF file)