If you’re ever looking for a true-to-life reminder of what shits Americans can be, pick up a Sarah Vowell history lesson. If I were a teacher these days, I’d throw out the textbooks and rely strictly upon Sarah to give it to the kids straight.
Unfamiliar Fishes takes readers on a journey through the history of Hawaii and it’s not so pleasant Americanization, thanks primarily to New Englanders that felt the need to spread the Good Word, and military men who needed a pit stop on the way to Japan. (Not to be outdone by the ugly Americans, I will say this—Kamehameha’s kids weren’t anyone you’d want to turn your back on. There’s a reason getting thrown off a cliff is cliche.)
I love Sarah’s writing, even when it seems like she get sidetracked — reminds me of my own ADD brain. It those occasional diversions she takes that offer up the juiciest stories. I’m headed to Hawaii in March and will never look at a lunch plate the same way.