Review: Kaiulani, The People's Princess

Kaiulani: The People's Princess, Hawaii, 1889 (The Royal Diaries)Kaiulani, The People's Princess
by Ellen Emerson White

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kaiulain, The People's Princess / 0-439-12909-5

This Princess Diary presents a fascinating view of American imperialism, and is a sad and touching commentary on the life of Hawaii's last princess.

While away at school in England, Kaiulani is horrified to learn that her grandfather the king has passed away, and her aunt has been deposed as the rightful queen by the American investors that are determined to annex Hawaii (by force) to the United States. These investors, having already forced the king to strip the voting rights from the native Hawaiians in favor of the Americans, are incensed at the new queen's attempt to restore those voting rights to the people. When they take over in a military coup, Kaiulani wisely travels to the United States to plead her country's case before the military and the U.S. president. When the president rules in favor of the royal family, and demands that the Americans give Hawaii back to the Hawaiians, the investors refuse and simply declare themselves the new rulers of Hawaii. Kaiulani lives out the rest of her days in mournful sadness, having seen her country plundered and her rightful place stolen from her.

As a Princess Diary, there is a great deal else here to enjoy. Kaiulani strikes up a heart-warming friendship with author Robert Louis Stevenson, and they share a great deal of wisdom and insight in their literary discussions. Kaiulani struggles bravely with her intense homesickness, having been sent halfway around the world, into a new culture and a new climate, and strives to excel in her studies in spite of the turmoil that dwells within her. A fascinating view of Hawaiian culture, her language, and her people is presented, as Kaiulani learns the ways of her people and their beliefs and dreams.

Though the American reader is grateful that this beautiful land enriches our country with its presence in our union, we can still be saddened that our ancestors did not act with more charity and kindness, wooing this lovely land instead of attempting to steal it. And the reader remembers, gently, that those who do not learn from the past may repeat the same mistakes.

~ Ana Mardoll

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