Writer, reporter, biographer, poet.  These are just a few words to define a man so multifaceted and with such a love for prose that he can fill this book, Slices of Life in Hawaii Volume 1, with over sixty-five short stories and poems about Hawaii’s people, history and culture.  This man, J. Arthur Rath III, is born and raised Hawai’i—descended from the Lyman Hawaiian Missionary family and Hawaiian king—and has quite the unique writing style!

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but the phrase that often springs to mind when describing J. Arthur Rath’s writing is one I learned from my former AP English teacher, whose name happened to be Rathyen but went by “Rath” for short,  it’s the term “bird walk”. While in class, an intense literary discussion would often branch out into new discussions that differed somewhat from the topic at hand, yet would eventually circumnavigate its way back to the root topic… the conversation took a “bird walk”.

I get that same feeling reading J. Arthur Rath’s book. Rath will start with a whimsical anecdote or an important moral, then whisk you away to another setting or topic that bears some relation; he may even provide for you a number of points of interest about this new subject before leapfrogging onto the next lily pad of discussion.

Just when you think you’ve strayed too far from the original intention, Rath maneuvers you back into position to conclude.  There are times he doesn’t, but he’ll wrap up that story with such an agreeable and witty end that you can’t help but appreciate the journey he took you on. The effect may be frustrating to some, but I find it enjoyable, especially in the short-story format.  And there are plenty of stories to cover in this book, only the first volume!

The book is split up into major topic areas such as Plantations, Ranching, Kamehameha Schools, and Kupuna to name a few.  I will admit not being very hep on poetry (maybe one day), so these did not captivate me as much as the personal stories that Arthur Rath has compiled.

Oral historians may appreciate the tales of Donald Dias and Simon Nasario who recount, in first person, their childhood growing up in Plantation Hawai’i.  Military enthusiasts might enjoy the story of a “small fire” in Pearl Harbor during WWII that could’ve blown up half the harbor.  There are also excellent features on notable luminaries such as Colleen Hanabusa, Wally Amos and Don Ho.

It’s like one big potluck, with Rath and others contributing many flavors of dishes—not all of which may agree with you, but you’re bound to find something to sate your appetite.  While not essential, Slices of Life in Hawaii Volume 1 provides a unique perspective on the many stories that make Hawaii special and is definitely a spectacular dive into the mind of such a droll and jovial scribe. Rath is an original writer with a distinctive voice and we’re lucky to have him writing in and about Hawaii.


Rath will be having a “Book Celebration” event at Bookends Bookstore in Kailua on Saturday, July 31 at 2:00pm.  If you’re in the area, please go and support a great local writer.  If you’re not from Kailua, you can make a day of it at many of the unique eating establishments K-Town has to offer.

* A copy of Slices of Life in Hawaii, Volume 1 was provided to us by the author in exchange for an honest review.