|Subject||History of Hawaii
History of Hawaii
|22 March 2011|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)
|LC Class||DU625 .V89 2011|
The book takes a humorous tone and examines the fulfillment of American imperialist manifest destiny at the end of the 19th century as America annexed Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Guam, and invaded Cuba, and the Philippines in 1898, in an attempt to become a global power. Vowell then tells the story of the culture clash that ensued following Christian missionaries who then moved in swiftly to try to convert the laid back native Hawaiians to the American way. The title comes from a reference of David Malo.
In her Los Angeles Times review, Susan Salter Reynolds wrote of Vowell, "Her cleverness is gorgeously American: She collects facts and stores them like a nervous chipmunk, digesting them only for the sake of argument. Her curiosity is fueled by indignation. She insists, like a good empiricist, on seeing the people and places she writes about. She is the queen of that great American institution: the road trip."
By contrast, Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times is unimpressed, condemning Vowell's self-indulgent style: "Certainly at a time when ignorance and historical illiteracy are rampant, there is a place for books that make the past relevant and easy to digest for the casual reader. But Ms. Vowell's determination to render history user-friendly often feels reductive and condescending, and her contemporary analogies can be strained."
However, in the New York Times Book Review, Hawaii resident Kaui Hart Hemmings praised the author thusly: "Vowell deftly summarizes complex events and significant upheavals, reducing them to their essence. ... While Vowell's take on Hawaii's Americanization is abbreviated, it's never bereft of substance—her repartee manages to be filling, her insights astute and comprehensive. It's not surprising to learn that she spent significant time interacting with islanders and combing through journals and archives. A variety of voices are heard, and all sides are implicated in the old Hawaii's demise."
Although Dan Kois, writing for National Public Radio, felt that Vowell was "good at connecting the dots in ways that make history vivid for her readers," he found the book "glib" and the subject "so complicated that her anecdotal structure isn't quite up to the task." He also cited "the limitations of Vowell's arch style."
- Fred Armisen as David Kalākaua, Henry Obookiah, and George Vancouver
- Bill Hader as Rufus Anderson, Captain James Cook, Robert Dampier, Sanford Dole, and Walter Murray Gibson
- John Hodgman as Amos Cooke and Teddy Roosevelt
- Catherine Keener as Lucy Goodale Thurston
- Edward Norton as Hiram Bingham and Grover Cleveland
- Keanu Reeves as David Malo
- Paul Rudd as Lorrin Thurston
- Maya Rudolph as Sybil Bingham and Queen Liluokalani
- John Slattery as Levi Chamberlain, Henry Cabot Lodge, and Ernest Hemingway
- Vowell, Sarah (2011). Unfamiliar Fishes. New York: Riverhead Books. ISBN 978-1-59448-787-3.
- Vowell, Sarah; Narrated by Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, John Hodgman, Catherine Keener, Edward Norton, Keanu Reeves, Paul Rudd, Maya Rudolph, John Slattery, Sarah Vowell (2011). Unfamiliar Fishes (Audiobook). New York: Simon & Schuster Audio.
- Salter Reynolds, Susan (26 March 2011). "Book review: 'Unfamiliar Fishes' by Sarah Vowell: The 'Partly Cloudy Patriot' author takes on American imperialism and exceptionalism.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 September 2011.
- Kakutani, Michiko (17 April 2011). "Some Stuff She Knows About Hawaii". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 September 2011.
- Book discussion on Unfamiliar Fishes, C-SPAN, April 2, 2011
- Book discussion on Unfamiliar Fishes, C-SPAN, September 24, 2011