Historical Background

Since Dragonfruit is a work of fiction, one of the first questions people have asked is, which of the characters are real?

All members of the royal family represented in this book are true characters, whom I tried to portray in an accurate but spirited manner as I found their letters and historical descriptions captivating. The same holds true of Robert Louis Stevenson.

Kalākaua, King of Hawai'i
Liliʻuokalani, Queen of Hawaiʻi
Kaʻiulani, Princess of Hawai'i

The missionary families portrayed are all entirely fictional, with the exception of the brief mention of President Dole. However, the opinions portrayed by those fictional characters are in keeping with the writings some, though not all, missionary figures left behind regarding this historical period. Some families participated in the overthrow, while others did not.

The Chinese tycoon Khan Ahsang is inspired by many real life figures who came to the Sandalwood Mountains and left having made their fortunes. He is a fictional character, but delve into our state’s history and you will find many figures of equal vibrancy. The Chinese community continues to play a key part in the state’s cultural fabric.

The Hawaiian legends described in this book were told to me and, I think, every other child growing up here; they managed to keep my siblings and me watchful and wide-eyed on many a windy night. I appreciate all the people who shared them with us.

I thank Nainoa Thompson for having included me in a group of visitors welcomed so warmly into the homes of patients living at Kalaupapa. I could not have created a fictional night there without having experienced a true visit with the amazing people who live there.

Many Native Hawaiians continue to struggle with challenges stemming from the traumatic events portrayed in this book. I hope this book honors that past in the way I meant it to, and that the future will hold increased opportunities in this beautiful place we call home.

All photos courtesy of Hawaii State Archives Digital Collection

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