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Tag Archives: Hansen's disease

  • Makia Malo — Storyteller

    Storyteller and Kalaupapa resident Makia Malo had a busy week late last month, promoting the release of his memoir, My Name is Makia: A Memoir of Kalaupapa, co-written with veteran broadcast journalist Pamela Young.

    First, Makia and Pamela paid a visit to Pamela's home station, KITV, to talk with morning anchor Jill Kuramoto. Here are a few behind-the-scenes photos (see more at our photo album on Facebook) and watch the news clip here.

    Pamela gives Makia some words of encouragement before they go live on-air. Makia's given hundreds of storytelling presentations to the public, but he still was nervous!
    Jill Kuramoto, Makia Malo and Pamela Young.
    Makia gets a surprise visit from his grand-niece, Alyssa Malo.

    A real trooper, Makia got up early again (along with his wonderful friend and caregiver Sheldon, who drove Makia to all his events) to visit the Hawaii News Now station. This time, storyteller Jeff Gere accompanied Makia.

    Jeff and Makia talked to morning anchor Tannya Joaquin about the new book and the upcoming book signing event. Makia got a great surprise when his grand-niece, Alyssa, stopped in to say hello! Alyssa works for Hawaii News Now and said she looked up, saw the monitor and said, "That's my uncle!" She rushed over to the studio say hello. Makia is the last of her grandfather's siblings still living.

    See the rest of our photos at the full gallery on Facebook and watch the interview here.

    Makia Malo, center, with Jeff Gere and Tannya Joaquin.
    Pamela Young, Jeff Gere & Makia Malo at the Barnes & Noble book signing event.

    Makia's whirlwind of events culminated in the reading and book signing held at Barnes & Noble, Kahala Mall, on September 29. Pamela Young and Jeff Gere read from My Name is Makia; Pamela read a portion of the introduction she wrote for the book, and Jeff read some of the stories Makia had invented, as well as some of the "memory vignettes" from the final section of the book.

    Dozens of people of all ages turned out to celebrate with Makia and get a copy of his memoir. Each copy was hand-stamped with Makia's signature (because of the damage Hansen's disease has wreaked on his hands, Makia has extreme difficulty holding a pen. We scanned a copy of his signature and made a large stamp so he could leave his imprint on each copy) and personalized by Pamela, who then added her own signature.

    Makia started by saying a few words of appreciation, and paying tribute to those friends and family he had at Kalaupapa who have passed on. Here's a short clip of Makia:


    Jeff reads from the final vignette of the book, called "Cemetery Gardens."


    A partial transcript of the excerpt Jeff reads from:

    There are gardens in the place called Kalaupapa. Gardens of headstones and wooden crosses, sculpted pieces and crypts that lie like pages of an open ledger, whose accounts have never been measured in assets, just liabilities. One life per headstone; one life per cross.

    Some of the gardens are clearly marked, enclosed by fences or the occasional low stone wall. There are many signs of those who were buried when the Homestead gave in to political expediency and the entire peninsula became both prison and haven for those with Hansen's disease. Then there are locations of earlier gardens overrun with thickets of Christmas berry, guava, and lantana. These were all but forgotten by the present-day folk. Awareness of them began only when cattle were being chased in and out of these hidden gardens, obvious signs of historic times.

    A few of the photos from the signing event (please see the rest in our Facebook photo album).

    Copies of "My Name is Makia" at Barnes & Noble.
    A friend whispers a special message in Makia's ear.
    A standing-room only crowd.
    After Makia stamped his name, Pamela personalized each copy for the recipient.
  • My Name is Makia: A Storyteller’s Tale of Life in Kalaupapa

    We are honored to present My Name is Makia: A Memoir of Kalaupapa by Makia Malo with Pamela Young, the second memoir from a Kalaupapa patient we have released, the first being Henry Nalaielua’s No Footprints in the Sand, published in 2006. We are humbled and honored to share their stories.

    Diagnosed with Hansen’s disease at the age of twelve, Makia Malo was exiled to the remote settlement of Kalaupapa on the rugged north coast of the Hawaiian Island of Moloka‘i. Malo lost his hands, his feet and his eyesight over the years, but never the vision or spirit that made him a celebrated Hawaiian storyteller and poet. My Name is Makia shares his inspiring story—of a child of Kalaupapa who grew up to become an award-winning writer, storyteller and instructor at the University of Hawai‘i.

    During its century as a virtual prison, more than 8,000 people were exiled to Kalaupapa, until the introduction of sulfone drugs in the 1940s.  Today a dwindling handful—fewer than 20—of patients remain. When his health allows, Malo numbers among them. Otherwise, he resides at Hale Mōhalu hospital in Honolulu.

    Few Kalaupapa patients have chosen to share their experiences in as public a manner as Malo, who has maintained a positive outlook despite the harsh realities of his life. “Yes, I wish my life had been different, but still it has been so much better than many of the [other] patients,” he points out.

    “I’d be grateful if people would remember all of us, the 8,000-plus who are dead and the handful of us hanging on… We lost so much. I hope in the future people learn from us. This is the lesson: No matter where you are, at what age, life can be hard. Life can take everything away from you in one snap of a finger and it doesn’t do you any good to sit there and whine about it. Take that cane and bang, bang your way around your problems. I have my memories. I have my stories.”

    My Name is Makia was crafted by veteran broadcast journalist Pamela Young from years of conversations with Malo combined with earlier attempts at documenting his life, written by himself and edited by his late wife, Ann. Woven throughout his narrative are transcriptions of many of the stories Malo has told to audiences around the world. Some are memories of his childhood. Others, as Young explains, “are myths, some are daydreams, with no beginning, end, or purpose.” She elaborates on the book’s genesis,

    “This book is the result of a  simple request Makia made [for a DVD copy of] a news special I produced, documenting thirty years of coverage in Kalaupapa, Belgium, and Rome…to give to his niece Noe ‘so I can leave her something after I go.’ I suggested she would be much happier with her uncle’s memoirs. And so began our weekly meetings at Hale Mōhalu hospital.”

    Please join us for a reading and book signing on Saturday, September 29 at Barnes & Noble, Kahala Mall, 1PM. Pamela and Makia's dear friend, storyteller Jeff Gere, will read from Makia's book. Makia and Pamela will sign books following the reading.

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