Kawai Strong Washburn grew up on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. Life on the Hāmākua coast gave him an appreciation for the natural landscape, as well as the stories and myths he learned in school and from his peers.
In his debut novel, Sharks in the Time of Saviors, Washburn follows the Hawai'ian-Filipino Flores family as they navigate the changing physical and socioeconomic landscape in Hawai'i. The story of the Flores family is set against the backdrop of Hawai'ian myth: when the youngest child is saved from drowning by sharks, his parents come to believe he has been chosen for a special purpose. That belief shapes the way the family functions and the pressues each of the Flores children feel.
Sharks in the Time of Saviors received rave reviews from the New York Times, the L.A. Review of Books, Vanity Fair, and a slew of other top publications when it was released this past March. In our conversation, we talk about the difference between the Hawai'i that lives in the collective imagination of mainlanders and the Hawai'i of Washburn's youth, the Flores family's dynamic in the context of the traumas they've suffered, and genre.
KAWAI STRONG WASHBURN was born and raised on the Hāmākua coast of the Big Island of Hawaiʻi, where he read loads of books, lived breathed slept soccer, played saxophone, and did all sorts of dangerous things on concrete and in the water.
He currently lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he is a husband and father (two firecracker daughters), and writes fiction. He occasionally does somewhat dangerous things on rock faces.