Lois-Ann Yamanaka

Wednesday - April 05, 2006
By Kerry Miller | Share Del.icio.us

It’s been five years since Molokai-born author Lois-Ann Yamanaka has graced book stores with a new title, and eight since being on
MidWeek’s cover in June 1998. Now, in 2006, she has released a new novel, and she’s also looking forward to her “other” life as a teacher.

Yamanaka’s newest historical fiction tale, Behold The Many, is the story of three sisters stricken with tuberculosis who are sent to stay at an orphanage in Kalihi Valley to recover, only to be abandoned, beaten and berated. The two youngest die, leaving the eldest, Anah, all alone.

“She (Anah) lives her life with the regret of not being able to save her sisters,” says the 45-year-old author/mom. “The long and short of it is they were trapped here (Hawaii) by mistake. They don’t understand. They’re waiting to be taken home.”

The inspiration for this new novel comes from Yamanaka’s own life. Since 1992, she’s lived with her husband and autistic son in Kalihi Valley, two blocks from the site of the orphanage depicted in her book.

“Our house got haunted,” she reveals. “They (the ghosts of the children) were looking for their home. That’s how we met.”

It was her son, Yamanaka says, who could feel a presence in their house, which turned out to be the spirits of the children.

“He (son John) kind of has a sixth sense,” she says. “I think he attracted them.”

Having lived through that somewhat surreal experience, the Yamanakas are very happy in their home. Prior to 2001, much of her days were spent on the road promoting her books, so she truly appreciates any time she gets to spend at home these days.

“My books used to come out once a year. I used to never unpack my suitcase,” Yamanaka recalls.

While she leaves her mornings open for writing, the author devotes the latter part of her days to teaching young students at her school, Na’au: A Place of Learning and Healing, located in downtown Honolulu. Oddly enough, Yamanaka says, she complains about teaching at times, saying that it “takes a lot of emotional energy,” but reveals that something keeps tugging at her to stick with it, and she is awfully proud of her students.

“The school is a way of giving back. I’m working with a lot of young people, writers on different kinds of projects. The kids are really doing well ... writing their hearts out,” she says.

As for her writing, well, Yamanaka is enjoying the rest of her tour promoting Behold The Many, which has brought her much joy.

“I feel gratitude and feel fortunate that my publisher still believes in putting me out there,” she tells MidWeek.

For now, Yamanaka is hopeful her fans will embrace Behold The Many, and also hopes to release another novel sometime in the future - but she’s leaving that up to fate.

“I’m not sure as to what project is going to happen next,” she admits with a laugh. “I’m kind of waiting for a sign.”

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