PERSONAL: Male. Ethnicity: "Korean American."
ADDRESSES: Office—Department of English, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI 96822. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, associate professor of English and director of creative writing. Producer, director and editor, Plantation Children: 2nd-Generation Koreans in Hawai'i, for Olelo Community Television, Honolulu, HI, 2006.
The Watcher of Waipuna and Other Stories, Bamboo Ridge Press (Honolulu, HI), 1992.
A Ricepaper Airplane (novel) University of Hawaii Press (Honolulu, HI), 1998.
Children of a Fireland (novel), University of Hawaii Press (Honolulu, HI), 2004.
Language of the Geckos and Other Stories, University of Washington Press (Seattle, WA), 2005.
ADAPTATIONS: The Watcher of Waipuna and Other Stories and A Ricepaper Airplane were produced as plays by the Kumu Kahua Theater.
SIDELIGHTS: The Watcher of Waipuna and Other Stories is a collection of eight short stories dealing with the themes of land, community, and childhood. Robin L. Bott pointed out in the American Book Review that, unlike other Hawaiian writers who focus on the experience of a single ethnic group, "[Gary] Pak writes about racially, religiously, and socially mixed communities in Hawaii, exploring the individual's search for identity and belonging within his variegated society of friends and neighbors…. Pak's work portrays the cultural situation in Hawaii as it currently is, a big pot of stew with separate and distinguishable parts seasoning each other and creating an overall flavor unattainable through the consumption of individual parts by themselves."
"The issues his stories deal with range from Native Hawaiian sovereignty to cultural hegemony and from social hierarchies to the preservation of land," wrote Morris Young in the Amerasia Journal. "Pak does not use land as a simple setting; he portrays it as a central character in his stories. His depiction of families and communities complicates the readers' expectations of nostalgic remembrances; his use of dialect and creole weaves together things familiar and forgotten." Bott said Pak "represents for his readers the act of manufacturing and sustaining superstitions in groups which is so much a part of the local Hawaiian culture. This gothic impulse … reveals the willingness of the Hawaiian people as a whole to entertain paranormal possibilities." Bott said the weaknesses "are rather minor," and felt that stereotypical characters such as the white businessmen or Japanese nationals "compare rather poorly with the other, richly detailed characters."
A Ricepaper Airplane is the story of a dying man's failed dream. Kim Sung Wha reflects on his life as a Hawaiian sugar plantation laborer in the 1920s and his dream of building an airplane of rice paper, bamboo, and bicycle parts that would carry him back to his wife and children in Korea. The dream was destined to fail, but it sustained him during his years as a worker, laborer, and patriot.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Amerasia Journal, fall, 1994, Morris Young, review of The Watcher of Waipuna and Other Stories, p. 108.
American Book Review, June, 1994, Robin L. Bott, review of The Watcher of Waipuna and Other Stories, p. 18.