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Reviewed by:
  • North Shore Place Names: Kahuku to Ka‘ena by John R. K. Clark
  • Colette J. Higgins, Professor of History
North Shore Place Names: Kahuku to Ka‘ena. By John R. K. Clark. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014. Xxix + 309 pp. Illustrated. Bibliography. Index. $42.00 paper

If you are curious about Hawaiian place names, including older names rarely used today, and if you are interested in what life was like on the North Shore of O‘ahu from the 1830s until the 1920s, then this book is a must for your [End Page 167] reference library. John Clark has mined the approximately 125,000 pages of Hawaiian-language newspapers—now searchable due to the Ho‘olaupa‘i database (—to uncover the ordinary and the newsworthy. Clark from the start clarifies that this book is, “not intended to be a complete compilation of every article and every mention of place names on the North Shore of O‘ahu” (p. xxvi). Accordingly, he has selected passages that are representative of the available information. Assisting Clark is Keao NeSmith, who has done a substantial amount of work in translating these passages into English. The layout of the book is such that each Hawaiian passage is immediately followed by the English translation. This format provides those fluent in the Hawaiian language with a useful reference tool, aids students of the Hawaiian language in identifying sentence patterns and building their vocabulary, and hopefully will inspire others to learn the Hawaiian language.

This book is organized alphabetically by place names, so the researcher needs to know the name of a place to learn more about it. This might be challenging for the reader who only knows the frequently used names of today (i.e. Hale‘iwa, Waialua, Kahuku) and not previously used names of places. Thus, it might be beneficial to simply flip through the book to become familiar with the place names used by the Hawaiians in the nineteenth century before diving into any particular passage. The map on page xii will probably not be helpful in trying to identify locations because the print is very small. For those wanting an overview of the North Shore area and insight into the author’s methodology, I would recommend that you view Clark’s lecture presentation from March 19, 2015, which has been posted as a YouTube video online ( In his presentation, Clark shares personal stories, includes an easy-to-read map, and provides excellent color aerial photographs taken by Brian Daniel (five of which are among the eleven black and white photos included in the book).

Clark has chosen to include 54 obituaries, 48 laments, 24 birth notices, and seven marriage announcements, all of which impress upon the reader the importance of newspapers to communicate life-changing events. The kanikau, or laments, are particularly moving and serve to convey a deep sense of loss. Written mostly by wives and husbands in memory of their departed spouse—but also for a parent or a child—these kanikau often recount journeys taken with their beloved and illustrate the poetic skill of their composers. After reading so many of them, I was left with the impression that composing kanikau was a common artistic ability among the Hawaiians of the nineteenth century. While I knew they did this, reading these heartfelt compositions really immersed me into their grief in a profound way. These individuals seemed to pour out their souls, thereby enshrining their loved ones in perpetuity in the pages of a newspaper. While the Hawaiian-language newspapers contain many laments, by translating so many of them into English for this book, it [End Page 168] now allows those who are not fluent in the Hawaiian language to appreciate the power of this form of Hawaiian poetry.

A variety of passages were chosen by Clark to highlight newsworthy events of the nineteenth century. For example: in 1878, Queen Kapi‘olani visited the Waialua and Kahuku branches of the ‘Ahahui Ho‘ōla Lāhui charitable organization, for which she served as its overall head; Queen Emma visited ‘Uko‘a Fishpond in Waialua in 1867, to see...


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