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Retired Hawaiian attorney James S. Campbell combines family history with personal memoir in his first book.

Campbell traces his family tree back to his great-grandparents, who emigrated from Ireland to Hawaii, then known as the Sandwich Islands, via the United States in the mid-1800s. Providing details not just on his direct ancestors but his great-great aunts and uncles as well, Campbell avoids the tendency of some genealogists to self-aggrandize through the accomplishments of their forebears and gives equal treatment to his less-prominent relatives. He weaves information on the history of Hawaii through his family’s story, although he seems to presuppose a certain familiarity with Hawaiian history and language. The author’s recognition of the matrilineal as well as the patrilineal side of his family is especially refreshing. As he brings the story to his own personal experiences, during World War II and later, his account becomes more interesting, especially his memories of the war, post-war period and plantation life, with an amusing anecdote about the “aunties” who visited the plantation workmen on payday. Interestingly, the Campbells’s early self-identification as natives of the Sandwich Islands, despite their lengthy sojourn in New York and New Jersey, is echoed by many others of European descent. Campbell’s biting commentary on trust-fund children may displease some of this privileged group, which includes members of his own family. On another financial note, the author points out the speed with which many of the early missionaries to Hawaii became wealthy landholders–sadly, greed and the manipulation of natives by newcomers is a recurring theme in Hawaii’s history. Campbell’s evaluation of Hawaii’s economy, which is based nearly exclusively on tourism but does not offer lucrative careers to Hawaiians, will make readers reevaluate their perception of Hawaii as “paradise.” It is paradise only to a privileged few. While the illustrations used are inexplicably not in the same order that they are introduced in the text, Country of Origin is otherwise well-researched and well put together, utilizing primary resources and oral history interviews.

Fascinating to those interested in the Hawaii Campbells or local history, but of little interest to the general reader.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-4196-6438-0
Program: Kirkus Indie
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