Stories

Wendy Miyake: Hawaiian Humor with a Heart

In Wendy Miyake’s world, men seek suitors for their daughters by searching the Internet for the best fishermen. And women have bodily organs that talk.

With wit, romance, poetry and especially magic, Miyake has authored Beads, Boys and the Buddha, a collection of seven short stories. Each of the drop-dead funny stories conveys a sense of place while presenting an affectionate look at its characters.

The character of Hamachi Oe is a thirtysomething woman whose father tries to find her a husband. He establishes a website and posts a message: “Only those who catch the biggest moi need apply.” Miyake says her short story, “getmymoi.com,” was partly inspired by real life. [The moi is a type of fish considered a Hawaiian delicacy.]

“I wrote this story about my father,” Miyake explains. "“And I know he wishes it would come true.”

But Miyake notes that love and fish are not as incongruous a combination as they seem. She learned from her father and grandfather that fishing itself is a romance, and the resulting story leaves the reader unable to look at ulua, moi, hamachi, ono or ahi the same way again.

Miyake, who grew up in Mililani, Hawaii, describes her father as a “Nisei” and her mother as “Sansei” in the way that they think and interact with her—an unconventional and strong-willed artist willing to take a different path in life.

Sometimes that path has led through her own body.

A painful ovary took Miyake on a search for medical advice. But like any good writer conducting research, she surveyed the scientific thinking on the subject but also considered the deeper meaning of what she learned and experienced.

“You can learn a lot by listening to your organs,” Miyake says with conviction.

In “Beads, Boys and the Buddha,” the short story that also serves as the title of Miyake’s book, the character of Lotus Odachi has painful ovaries that actually speak. And Lotus’ ovaries are not just unhappy—they’re furious.

The goal of these humorous, thought-provoking stories, says Miyake, “is to put feminine energy in the world.” Miyake, who also works as a college teacher, notes that her tough job often requires a kind of “male” energy that she sees a need to counterbalance. “Beads, Boys and the Buddha” introduces an alternative world—a shimmering, vibrating, musical world—when the character Vicente Sage, a pariah in his elite medical circles, hears Lotus’ ovary speak in a low voice, resonating in the song of a Tibetan singing bowl.

Conflict and tension between parents and children, men and women, old and young, spark Miyake’s creativity and desire to write. But even a short conversation with Miyake reveals her genuine compassion. She talks lovingly and without irony about her parents, grandparents, teachers, friends and other family members.

“I try to listen carefully to all of the voices around me,” Miyake says, noting that even children can have important views to share. Her nephew with whom she shares a deep bond influenced the story, “Loving Karma,” in which a young character named Zeus Makabe provides insights when others are dithering.

Do fiction and a dream world provide a heightened truth? Wendy Miyake’s witty, magical stories will have you believing they do.

August 2006

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