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Libraries host tribute to isles’ beloved queen

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    Princess Lydia Paki, circa 1881, took on the name Liliuokalani after she became queen in 1891. The cover of the newly released autobiography of Liliuokalani, “Hawaii's Story by Hawaii's Queen,” with cover by Barbara Pope Book Design. Below, the choral group Kawaiolanapukanileo performed at Pearl City Public Library’s He Lei, He Aloha program.

  • The reissue of an autobiography by Queen Liliuokalani inspires a free library program.
    The choral group Kawaiolanapukanileo performed at Pearl City Public Library’s He Lei, He Aloha program.

  • The cover of the newly released autobiography of Liliuokalani, “Hawaii's Story by Hawaii's Queen,” with cover by Barbara Pope Book Design.

"THE QUEEN inspires me daily. To me, she is a model of grace, forgiveness, compassion and loyalty to her people — not just Hawaiians but everyone in her kingdom who respected the values and traditions of the Hawaiians. I am a royalist; I hold dual citizenship in my heart."

Maile Meyer, owner and founder of Native Books/Na Mea Hawai‘i in Ward Warehouse, speaks passionately about Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s last reigning monarch. Meyer’s great aunt, Emma Nawahi, was one of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting, so she has special interest in the events that led to the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893 and the annexation of the islands to the United States five years later.

Meyer came up with the idea for He Lei, He Aloha (This is a lei of love), a tribute to Queen Liliuokalani, when she heard that an expanded edition of the queen’s autobiography, "Hawai‘i’s Story by Hawai‘i’s Queen" (see sidebar) was going to be released this year. Coincidentally, 2013 also marks the 100th anniversary of the Hawaii State Library in downtown Honolulu, so the library system was the perfect partner for the program.


Following is the He Lei, He Aloha schedule for Hawaii island. The program will be presented on Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kauai between Jan. 22 and Feb. 6 and will wrap up on Feb. 13 at the Hawaii State Library. He Lei, He Aloha is suitable for those ages 12 and older. For more information visit

Jan. 9
Pahala Public and School Library, 11:30 a.m.
Keaau Public and School Library, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 10
Naalehu Public Library, 1 p.m.

Jan. 11
Kealakekua Public Library, 10:30 a.m.
Kailua-Kona Public Library, 3 p.m.

Jan. 13
North Kohala Public Library, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 15
Thelma Parker Memorial Public and School Library, 6 p.m.

Jan. 16
Honokaa Public Library, 5:30 p.m.

Jan. 17
Laupahoehoe Public & School Library, 1:15 p.m.

Jan. 18
Hilo Public Library, 11 a.m.

"He Lei, He Aloha was supported by many people, including state Librarian Richard Burns; Susan Nakata, section head of the Library Development Services Section; and Nola Nahulu, choral director of Kawaiaha‘o Church," Meyer said. "The trustees of the Queen Lili‘uokalani Trust helped underwrite the cost of producing programs and resource guides. Like everything Hawaiian, it was a kakou (we, inclusive) thing."

Twenty-eight of the 50 public libraries statewide agreed to host He Lei, Hei Aloha. The Oahu libraries’ presentations were held in September and October; the neighbor island libraries’ presentations are scheduled for January and February.

The free 45-minute tribute program includes music, songs, readings from "Hawai‘i’s Story by Hawai‘i’s Queen" and a seven-minute vignette from "Ku‘u ‘Aina Aloha" ("Beloved Land, Beloved Country"), a film based on letters exchanged between the queen and Nawahi. Meyer’s sister, Meleanna, an artist and art educator, is the producer of the film and the narrator for He Lei, He Aloha.

"The letters were about what was happening in the kingdom politically," Meyer said. "The two women were trying to get through that desperate time through companionship and aloha. Meleanna and I are doing whatever we can to have the queen remembered for what she was trying to continue: the nature and presence of kanaka maoli, Hawaiians."

He Lei, He Aloha wraps up with a discussion moderated by members of the ‘Iolani Guild, an auxiliary of the Episcopal Diocese of Hawai‘i. Queen Liliuokalani was baptized at the church’s St. Andrew’s Cathedral on May 18, 1896, and served as president of the Guild until she died in 1917.

Audience participation is a key component of the program. "Community members do the readings," Meyer said. "Many people get misty-eyed as they listen to the queen’s powerful, heartfelt words. They feel her confusion and sadness, as well as hope and continuity. During the program, many attendees have said they have felt the presence of the queen. She was a prolific composer, and Aunty Nola leads us in singing her songs, including ‘Aloha ‘Oe,’ which has become one of Hawaii’s anthems."

In fact, some of the most stirring moments of He Lei, He Aloha come when a room full of strangers sing the queen’s songs. "To hear many voices combine as one is beautiful, inspirational," Meyer said. "There is something to be learned from that. The queen wanted her people to be unified. How can we in Hawaii work together to address important issues? How can we sing well together?"

Autobiography’s reissue includes original writing

First published in January 1898, "Hawai’i’s Story by Hawai’i’s Queen" is the only autobiography written by a Hawaiian monarch. The recently released expanded edition of the book includes the complete original text with misspellings and typographical errors corrected. Annotations by historian David Forbes identify people the queen refers to and explain inconsistencies.

Most of the photographs in the original book are included in the new edition, along with additional images from the collections of the queen, members of her family, Bishop Museum, the Hawaii State Archives, the Hawaiian Historical Society and the Queen’s Medical Center. Maps, drawings and the genealogy of Kepookalani, Liliuokalani’s great-grandfather, written in her hand, also complement the text.

The original book was 410 pages and measured 5.5 inches by 8 inches. The expanded version, including an index, is 6 inches by 9 inches and 496 pages. It was published by Hui Hanai, an auxiliary to the Queen Lili’uokalani Children’s Center, which the queen established in 1909 "for the benefit of orphan and other destitute children in the Hawaiian Islands." 

IN THE introduction of the new edition, Forbes says the objective of Queen Liliu-okalani’s book "was not to be a bittersweet life story of a deposed monarch, but rather to build a case against … American intervention into Hawaiian politics and to present a plea to Americans in general, and to members of the U.S. Congress in particular, to consider the retention of Hawaiian sovereignty, rather than proceeding with the annexation of the islands by the United States."

Forbes describes how the first edition’s Boston publisher, Lee and Shepard, deleted portions of the manuscript that were deemed too inflammatory to print. His introduction includes some of those sections.

Hawaii was annexed to the United States on Aug. 12, 1898, less than a year after "Hawai’i’s Story by Hawai’i’s Queen" was released. Although it did not help Hawaii retain independence as the queen had hoped, it has, according to Forbes, "achieved the status of a classic, a much beloved account of Hawaiian history."

The $34.95 book is available at Native Books/Na Mea Hawai’i in Ward Warehouse (596-8885). For more information on ordering, call 597-8967 or email


Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Advertiser have won several Society of American Travel Writers awards.

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