If there is anything I enjoy more than watching “Hawaii Five-0,” it has to be reading a good book. When that book also happens to have a main character who is part-Hawaiian and has a strong connection to Hawaii, then I’m pretty much in paradise.
When Dennis Chun told me about Lisa Freeman’s new book, “Honey Girl,” I was quick to download it. I was curious to read a story written by the daughter of “Hawaii Five-O” creator Leonard Freeman.
Freeman grew up in California and spent many summers in Hawaii as her father worked on “Five-O.” Her connection to the show continues today, as she is still very good friends with some of the remaining original Hawaii actors who were cast members or recurring players on the classic show. She’s known Al Harrington, Kimo Kahoano and Jimmy Borges for years, and is friends with current cast members Dennis Chun and Taylor Wily as well.
The castmates often meet with Freeman and her sisters, Robin and Susan, whenever they are in Hawaii. Veteran broadcaster Emme Tomimbang often joins them. This weekend, they will all meet up again to celebrate Lisa Freeman’s new book.
Freeman is in town and will read from “Honey Girl” at Barnes and Noble Ala Moana at 1 p.m. Saturday. Tomimbang will moderate a panel discussion about Leonard Freeman’s legacy with members of the current “Hawaii Five-0” cast, including Chun, Harrington, and Wily, as well as Borges and Kahoano. Harrington, who played Detective Ben Kokua in the original series, will also speak. Kimo Kahoano will act as master of ceremonies along with Tomimbang.
“Honey Girl” is Freeman’s first novel and it is the story of 15-year-old Nani Grace, who moves from Hawai‘i to Santa Monica after her father’s death. Nani has to navigate through the State Beach social hierarchy to make friends and gain acceptance on a very different beach than where she grew up.
Nani narrates the book in a clear and honest voice, one that’s wonderfully rich and engaging. My favorite part was reading Nani’s words, which are appropriately peppered in Hawaiian and pidgin English typical of a 1970’s beach girl.
When I spoke to Chun by phone this week, he was excited to be involved and shared how Freeman used her “Five-O” connections to help with details and use of Hawaiian language in the book.
“She would call us or write to us and ask us about what would be the proper Hawaiian words to use in this situation, or what a person would say in this situation,” he said.
Chun also talked a lot about how much the “old gang” supported each other, and of course, how Freeman and her sisters were a big part of that support system.
“The Five-0 ʻohana that the fans all talk about has continued from the original show until now,” he said.
I spoke to Freeman on Friday by phone, and she also talked about asking her Hawaii friends for help and advice.
“I called everyone and asked them if this is what they would say, or if the Hawaiian was right, I just wanted to correctly honor the place I love most,” she said.
Freeman’s book takes place in 1972, around the same time “Hawaii Five-O” was climbing to fame. It’s obvious from reading the book that Freeman carries her father’s love for Hawaii and continues his legacy by writing about her second home.
“Since the story takes place when Watergate, the Vietnam War and ‘Hawaii Five-O’ were all brands of the time period, it’s a really interesting way to talk about historical fiction,” said Freeman.
But more than just historical fiction, “Honey Girl” addresses issues young girls deal with — even today. The death of a beloved parent, sexual identity and desire for acceptance are all issues many of us can relate to and understand.
Freeman will donate 10 percent of the proceeds from her book to the Hawaii Community Foundation in support of cultural programming.
REDUX SIDE NOTE
“Hawaii Five-0” returns with “Hoʻamoano” (“Chasing Yesterday”) on April 24. The episode features several special guest stars, including Jaleel White, Pauly Shore and Kevin Farley, who experience a more deadly version of a “The Hangover” when a woman is found dead in their hotel suite.
Honolulu Police Department Chief Louis Kealoha will also guest star as himself and veteran Hawaii newscaster Dan Cooke will make an appearance.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.