Alan Brennert, an Emmy-winning TV writer who crafted episodes of a diverse array of series including “L.A. Law,” the 1980s version of “The Twilight Zone” and “Star Trek: Enterprise,” fell in love with Hawaii while visiting with his wife in 1980. The island paradise became a yearly vacation favorite for the couple ever since, and wound up providing the inspiration for his novel “Moloka’i,” which has sold a massive 600,000 copies since its release in 2003.
Now Brennert has released a sequel, called “Daughter of Moloka’i,” and he’ll be bringing it to the Pasadena Central Library’s Donald R. Wright Auditorium for a discussion and signing at 3 p.m. Saturday .
The author’s appearance is part of a slate of events from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. marking Asian Pacific Islander Day, including an 11 a.m. discussion called “Moving Histories: Japanese Americans After the Wartime Incarceration” with author Naomi Hirahara and documentarian Sharon Yamato, and a 1:30 p.m. performance by a troupe of Hawaiian dancers.
“I never had a bestseller before, but had written a few fantasy novels in addition to my TV work,” recalls Brennert. “My wife and I took a trip to Moloka’i and found it a unique island with much natural beauty, not much development. Not one stoplight on the whole island and that’s how the locals prefer it. I decided to write about the bonds of community because Moloka’i seemed like the kind of place someone could come to lose themselves.
“The more I researched Moloka’I, the more I read about Kalaupapa, a leprosy settlement that was on the island in 1856 and still exists,” he continues. “I learned that every time one of the diseased patients would have a baby, it would be taken away from them for fear it would be hit with leprosy. That’s the novel’s idea: being sent to a remote place far from your family, defy the odds, grow up, get married have a child and have it taken away from you.”
“Molokai” is a historical novel that follows the story of a young woman named Ruth who arrives at the Kapi’olani Home for Girls in Honolulu, to her adoption by a Japanese couple who raise her on a strawberry and grape farm in California, her marriage and unjust internment at Manzanar Relocation Camp during World War II ― and then, after the war, to the life-altering day when she receives a letter from a woman who says she is Ruth’s birth mother, Rachel.
“Daughter of Moloka’I” expands upon Ruth and Rachel’s 22-year relationship, only hinted at in “Moloka’i.” It’s a richly emotional tale of two women — different in some ways, similar in others — who never expected to meet, much less come to love, one another, and provides a look at the beauty and history of both Hawaiian and Japanese cultures.
“A book club member at an event I did for the first book asked if I ever thought of telling Ruth’s story,” says Brennert. “I said no, and that I had just written ‘Moloka’I’ and was anxious to move other ways. A year ago, I talked to my literary agent about another novel idea I had. Out of the blue, she said tell Ruth’s story and I said OK and there was a book there. It was written to be read as a standalone novel. You can read either one first. They’re complimentary and form one overarching story.”
Alan Brennert discusses and signs his novels from 3-4 p.m. Sat. at the Donald R. Wright Auditorium inside the Pasadena Central Library, 285 E. Walnut St., Pasadena. Admission is free. Call (626) 744-4066.