National treasure Sarah Vowell's most recent book, Unfamiliar Fishes, explores the Americanization of Hawaii, from the arrival of the first missionaries in the early 19th century to their grandchildren’s coup, backed by the U.S. military, not 80 years later. Vowell, the author of several previous histories (The Wordy Shipmates, Assassination Vacation), lays out the actions of the Americans and the native Hawaiians that led to first the infiltration and then overthrow of the Hawaiian government and the ultimate annexation by the U.S. in 1898. Vowell, who appears tonight as part of City Arts and Lectures’ “On Arts” series that benefits 826 Valencia’s Scholarship Program, is a kind narrator; while not exactly sympathetic, she allows all her subjects to explain themselves, and she restrains herself to the occasional wry, pointed comment. She truly excels at contextualization, marking the annexation in particular as the action that turned the U.S. into “a meddling, self-serving, militaristic international superpower practically overnight.” Vowell seems pretty fond of America; she pokes our national bruises to make us more strongly feel our national pains.
Mon., March 12, 8 p.m., 2012

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