It's a very funny thing about being a writer. I complete a book. I've said everything that I have to say about the matter. Then the book tour begins, and I am expected to say more - much more. And when the questions begin, silence is just not an option: not on radio, not on TV, not in print. Writing the book Grandmothers Whisper was completely in my hands. But my control stopped there. I cannot - will not - pretend to know how any single human heart and mind will respond to their reading of Grandmothers Whisper. I do know that each of us brings our own story to bear on the one we read on the page.
Love it, hate it, read into it, read out of it - in the silence of the reader's living room - I have no problem. It is only in the public arena - the arena of public opinion and publicity (so that the potential reader knows the book exists) - does interpretation become daunting.
If you heard 'Iokepa or me being interviewed in Detroit, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Central California, or Ontario, Canada (by phone and in person) in a single day (and this did actually happen a couple days ago) - you would have sworn that you had heard us speak about five completely different books.
In Atlanta, the book was emphatically described by the interviewer as a wonderful love story - a story of destiny fulfilled in the merging of two strangers on a sacred Native Hawaiian site on Christmas morning nearly fifteen years ago.
But in Minneapolis, the host challenged the craziness of a woman who irresponsibly, without good enough reason, abandoned a perfectly wonderful life in Portland, Oregon to selfishly drag her fourteen-year-old son to harship and destitiution on Hawaiian beaches.
In Central California - it was determinedly the account of Native Hawaiians, who, within their ancient matriarchal culture, offered answers to our modern, warring world.
In Detroit, however, the book was about personal freedom, about what constitutes wealth or poverty, and about oppression - all oppression.
And in Canada - God bless those wonderful Canadians - the book was about simplifying ones life, about the stuff we accumulate, about a woman and man who live quite well, thank you, owning only what we carry in the trunk of our car.
That was just within a single day.
On another day, it looked like this: A Jewish woman who discovered her own beliefs and culture via her immersion into her husband's (of all things!) Native Hawaiian culture.
On still another, the interviewer said the book is about relationship: our relationship to change (do we fear it?); our relationship to intimacy (do we fear it?); our relationship to our children (do we fear for them?)
'Iokepa and I are asked to anticipate each of these lines of inquiry. We are expected to imagine what a single reader might bring to our story to make it his or her own. As the ancestral Grandmothers say about life itself: "Everything and anything can change in a breath."
Never do we contradict a well-intentioned reader's attempt to join the story at the place where it touches heart or mind, emotion or intellect. The solemn fact of this matter is this: Every single thing that has been said about Grandmothers Whisper is absolutely true. The words on its pages are now the reader's story. We hope that she follows them, fearlessly, wherever they take her.