Compelling Pacific Islander Stories

By Skokie Staff Advisory Services

A collection of books and films encapsulating the rich culture and history of the Pacific Islander experience.

  • Boy


    This is a poignant coming-of-age story that brings the viewer into a small Maori community and a young boy's dream of reuniting with his father, and perhaps catching a Michael Jackson concert together. Director/writer Taika Waititi uses a mostly Maori cast and also costars. You can definitely get a sense of his quirky humor in this early film and see how he has developed into one of the most creative filmmakers today. Also available on Hoopla and Kanopy. Recommended by Sharon.

    Get this item
  • Sharks in the Time of Saviors

    2020 by Washburn, Kawai Strong

    This is the story of what happens to a native Hawaiian family when the parents lose their jobs and their son is saved from drowning by a shark, with the result that he seems to have been imbued with healing abilities. Gritty reality and cultural belief in the power of the supernatural coexist throughout this sad but hopeful novel. It's wonderfully written and like nothing I'd read before! Recommended by Lukie.

    Get this item
  • Breadfruit

    2006 by Vaite, Celestine

    Follow the life of Materena Mahi, “one of the spunkiest, wisest, lovingest women on the island of Tahiti.” (Publishers Weekly) This is actually a sequel to Vaite’s Frangipani, but I strongly believe it can be read as a stand-alone. It’s charming, delightful, and unafraid to tackle heavy topics, such as political unfairness. Recommended by Penny.

    Get this item
  • The Descendants

    2007 by Hemmings, Kaui Hart

    A descendant of royalty and one of the largest landowners in Hawaii, Matthew King struggles to deal with his out-of-control daughters—10-year-old Scottie and 17-year-old Alex—as well as his comatose wife, whom they are about to remove from life support. According to Publishers Weekly, it is a "sharply observed, frequently hilarious and intermittently heartbreaking look at a well-meaning but confused father trying to hold together his unconventional family." Recommended by Becca.

    Get this item
  • Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls: A Memoir

    2019 by Madden, T Kira

    Madden's debut memoir about finding redemption in female friends and lovers after growing up in a wealthy but dysfunctional family. "Though the author's aching emotional rawness sometimes makes for difficult reading, this is a deeply courageous work that chronicles one artist's jagged—and surprisingly beautiful—path to wholeness. Affecting, fearless, and unsparingly honest." (Kirkus) Recommended by Becca.

    Get this item
  • IZ: The Man behind the Music


    Via this documentary, experience the brilliant musicianship and celebrate the life of the late Israel Kamakawiwoʻole, known as The Voice of Hawaii. Recommended by Sharon.

    Get this item
  • Diamond Head

    2015 by Wong, Cecily

    A novel about three generations of Sino-Hawaiian women all affeacted by poor romantic choices. Booklist describes it as a, ". . . Hawaiian saga of deception and loyalty [that] evocatively captures the tightly controlled worlds of privilege and power." Recommended by Becca.

    Get this item
  • Where the Rekohu Bone Sings

    2014 by Makereti, Tina

    "From the Chatham Islands/Rekohu to London, from 1835 to the 21st century, this quietly powerful and compelling novel confronts the complexity of being Moriori, Maori and Pakeha." Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings is a must-read. Recommended by Penny.

    Get this item
  • An Eternal Lei: A Leilani Santiago Hawai'i Mystery

    2022 by Hirahara, Naomi

    For fans of thrilling cozies, this mystery is the one for you. Mia P. Manansala, author of Arsenic and Adobo, says “complicated family dynamics, pandemic issues, a wonderfully multicultural cast, and the unique politics of the island add color and depth to the latest installment of this fantastic mystery series.” Recommended by Leslie.

    Get this item
  • Find Your Voice


    This coming-of-age story follows Elvis, a young Māori rapper who seeks to explore his roots and find the meaning of life. With a cleverly comedic cast and a romance you can’t help but root for, this is not one to miss. Recommended by Leslie.

    Get this item
  • Vai


    A series of vignettes capturing how one woman, Vai, moves through the stages of life. Each version of Vai is portrayed by a different Indigenous actress from various Pacific Islands. The film as a whole showcases the vivid and distinct cultures across the Pacific Islander diaspora while maintaining a fluid and captivating story. Recommended by Leslie.

    Get this item