AKEMI Dawn Bowman served in the US Navy for five years and is originally from Las Vegas.
These days she lives in England with her husband and two children, but is planning to relocate to Scotland.
Her debut Young Adult novel, Starfish, (released by Ink Road on April 5) deals with social anxiety, toxic relationships, rejection and the importance of being true to yourself.
I was eight years old the first time I went to Hawaii.
My dad was born and raised there, as were his parents and grandparents. I spent two summer vacations on Oahu, and experienced life not as a tourist, but as a local.
I still remember the mornings. My grandma would slice up fresh mango for breakfast and my grandpa would walk through the door with a bag of lychees he’d picked from the neighbour’s backyard.
In the afternoons I’d help him water his orchids and try to catch the lizards that had wandered into the house looking for shade.
We’d have brunch most days at a nearby barbecue joint, where a handful of local elders would sit in the back and drink coffee for hours.
My brothers and I would help the restaurant staff fill cups with ice and put silverware out on the tables.
It felt like we were part of the community. People called us “hapa” – a term that means half outsider, but is commonly used by locals to mean half-Asian, half-white.
I’m used to people looking at me like I don’t belong.
Usually it’s because they have a hard time placing my ethnic background, and so they ask the phrase that never fails to make me feel bothered: “What are you?”
In Hawaii, they don’t need to ask, because so many of the locals are just like me – hapa. Half. Not unusual, or exotic, or different. And in many ways, Hawaii felt more welcoming than the city I grew up in.
When I went back to Hawaii as an adult, I wondered if it would still feel the same, or if the years away had somehow made me less hapa than I once was.
I was wrong to worry.
Hawaii is more than a holiday.
It’s more than the beautiful cerulean beaches with white sand and the perfect weather that’s mostly the same throughout the year.
It’s more than the smell of gardenias wafting through the air and the delightful birdsong of shama thrush in the trees.
To me, Hawaii is family. To me, Hawaii is home.