Sunday, February 10, 2008


But in that collective wail Rachel heard some distinctive voices, and now she saw, on the other side of the barrier, Mama and Papa and he siblings, and seeing them, Rachel's resolve crumbled, her tears flowed. The police herded the patients along, discouraging contact with friends and relatives. Already the first of the exiles were being taken up the gangway and onto the ship. Rachel, adults towering on every side of her, could barely make out her family and felt suddenly afraid; she had to see them one last time! She began pushing her way through the mass of people, struggling to get closer. "Let my through! Let me through!" she cried out, barely able to see past the barricade of her own tears; she shoved and elbowed her way over, until at last she broke through the bulwarks of leprous flash and saw them, saw Mama and Papa and Ben and Kimo and Sarah pressed against the wooden fence. When they saw her their hands shot out, they called her name, their bodies strained against the barrier. The crowd surged behind Rachel, she was propelled forward like a speck of foam on a billowing wave; her hand reached out, the tip of her fingers just grazing Mama's palm as she passed, the human wave carrying her away. Rachel would cherish that last touch for years to come, remembering the warmth of her skin, the way her big fingers almost closed around Rachel's, and the desperate love in Mama's face as it was stolen away from her. – Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

I love this book, it's one of my all time favorites. Not necessarily because of the writing, which is what normally wraps me up, but the story is so captivating. The book is set in the Hawaiian islands, with the story beginning in 1891 and ending in 1970. It is the tale of a girl, Rachel, who contracts leprosy, known as the ma'i pake on the islands, at the tender age of six. At that time in history there was no cure for leprosy and the disease was widely misunderstood. Through out the world people were shipped off to colonies in hopes of not infecting others, and Hawaii was no different. The colony serving the islands was known as Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai'i. Rachel is forced to leave behind her loving family and all that she knows to go to the colony. "Luckily" her uncle contracted the ma'i pake before her, and he will be on the island to bring her some comfort, that is until the disease claims his life, leaving her alone.
Rachel's story, although fiction, is still a true story. Thousands of people were shipped off to leprosy colonies around the world, and many were children, left to find their own way. This story is one of adventure, sadness, love and self discovery. It's fantastic, a story that has you crying one chapter and smiling wide the next. I recommend it to everyone, not only because it's a good book, but also because it's a part of our history, one that typically gets no mention in the classroom.

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