From the Press Archives: A Childhood Gift

Bamboo Ridge Press has been digging through the archives to unearth past stories from our talented ʻohana.  In this heartfelt narrative, Marie Hara, the former Board President and cherished friend of Bamboo Ridge Press, takes us on a nostalgic journey back to her childhood in Kapa‘au on Hawaii island (affectionately known as the Big Island).

Written back on June 22, 2003, Marie reflects on the profound impact of the isolated library in her small Hawaii town—a haven that played a pivotal role in shaping her love for reading and, ultimately, her path as a writer and teacher. The story unveils a world where the library stood as a free haven, nurturing young minds, and fostering a lifelong love for learning.

Enjoy this throwback, we sure did!

Hawaii Song

Marie as a toddler on the steps of the Kapa‘au Library on the Big Island.

A Childhood Gift

Sometimes I think back to how I learned to read—sitting on the floor of the isolated library in Kapa‘au on the Big Island.

I am two years old.

The librarian—kind Mrs. Couts, the wife of a plantation manager—has not only taught me to read and to respond to questions in English, not pidgin Hawaiian or my regular Hiroshima-ben phrases, she also changes my diapers. Amazing grace.

To be surrounded by books and a caring adult mentor, how did that happen? Granted I am the only customer in the small room. Granted there are no books or magazines or radio or people under the age of eighty—my grandparents are in the last part of their lives—in my house, which is right next door to the library, nestled deep into the sleepy town. Outside of our back door is an endless field of sugar cane. Kapa‘au is marked by cane and the sad-eyed statue of King Kamehameha, dredged up from the ocean, the one who properly faces the Pacific to guard us instead of turning his back. There is a war going on out there, but I don’t know that.

All I know is this:
The library is a good place.
The books are my friends.
I can read.

And I believe that I became a writer and teacher thanks to that earliest experience with writing so long ago in a Hawai‘i that is no more.

And the library is still there, still open and offering gifts of the mind to all who enter.

Marie Hara

Talk story

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