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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ah ha! Research Vindicated

I just returned from a vacation in Hawaii. Ten days in paradise, on a cruise around the islands. But I'm not going to make this a travel blog. Instead, I'm going to share my geek highlight. lol One of the evening shows on the cruise was a hula show. No surprise there. The dancers actually did traditional dances from around the Polynesian islands, including dances from Hawaii, Tahiti, Tonga, and New Zealand.

In December 2009, I had a book come out called Love In Exile. It's a Regency historical and the hero is half-Polynesian. His father was a naturalist who sailed with Captain Cook, and his mother was from the Friendly Islands, modern-day Tonga. On the cruise I had several important areas of my research for this book confirmed. Now, I know my research was correct. But it was so wonderful to be able to go and see that for myself.

The first thing was my hero's tattoos. Tattooing is an important part of Polynesian culture and
history. And my hero has a traditional tattoo--an almost solid, intricate design from his hips to just above his knees. (Yes, EVERYTHING.) One of the male dancers in the hula show had a similar tattoo! Well, I can't confirm the everything part, but his costume revealed the tattooing around his hips and down his thighs. I was jumping in my seat pointing to him as I shook my husband and said, "See? See that?" He made the appropriate responses, lol.

Next was the importance of family and naming. The cruise ship had a "Hawaiian Ambassador", in other words a native Hawaiian who gave lessons and lectures in Hawaiian culture and history. Malu, our ambassador, talked about how important names are in Polynesian culture. My hero's English name is Gregory, but the name his mother gave him at birth, before she died is Palu. And he only shares that name with people in England who he considers family. But it is the name he prefers. The idea of family is also an important aspect of Polynesian culture. Your name indicates your family, and extended family are included in your inner circle. Malu talked about the fact that her American mother wanted a small wedding, family only. Her Hawaiian father agreed. They had over 500 people at their wedding. :-) Palu is reluctant to discuss his Polynesian family when he is in England, and as a naturalist his research focuses on the plants and animals of Polynesia, not the people. His reason is because they are his people, and he refuses to treat them as subjects of research or to make them objects of curiosity to others.

This was the first time I've had research that I've done for an historical novel confirmed through travel. Has this happened to anyone else? What about readers? Something you've read in a book and then seen firsthand?


Amy DeTrempe said...

Wow, that musth have been so exciting. Hope that happens to me some day.

Rowena said...

Did you go to the Polynesian Culture Center? My Aunt works there. It's such a cool place to visit.

I'm Samoan and the tattoo that you're talking about in this post is called a pe'a in the Samoan culture. Both my grandmother and my grandfather had one and they got it done the old fashion way, unlike a lot of the kids these days that get their pe'a's done with a tattoo gun. My grandmother's tattoo took over three weeks to complete and it was painful but she was determined to get it.

What a great post! I must pick up the book that you're talking about. Thanks for this post.

Samantha Kane said...

Amy ~ I loved it! It was immensely satisfying. :-)

Rowena ~ I didn't! I wish I had had more time while I was there to do everything. But I actually went for my brother's wedding, and family came first. I mentioned briefly in the book about the traditional method using a chisel or comb. It sounds incredibly painful! Your grandmother must be very brave.

Cynthia Owens said...

Great post, Samantha. I had a similar experience last summer, when my family and I visited Ireland. It wasn't a particular piece of research, though, but an overall feel for the place, the misty shores, the rainbows, and the general feel of the people. And I can't wait to go back!