Wayne Moniz grew up on Maui before Hawaii was a state; before jet aircraft and posh resorts at Ka`anapali and Wailea turned the island into an international tourist destination. Back then the island was rural, quiet and, for a kid, loads of fun.
“Mango trees played a large part in my childhood years,” is how Moniz–an award winning playwright and author of novels and short stories–opens his new memoir. “Although hardly a native of Hawai`i, the trees have been around for as far back as I can remember. The trees and its branches were not only a source of its juicy fruits but also served as substitute swinging points for wannabe Tarzans, the probable place for a refrigerator box clubhouse, and a hideaway for kolohe kids.”
Much of the book is light-hearted (as is much of Moniz’s writing, which includes Pukoko: A Hawaiian in the American Civil War, Under Maui Skies and Other Stories and Beyond the Reef: Stories of Maui in the World), but not completely so. His account of visiting Kaho`olawe with Hawaiian activists in the 1980s, though largely sentimental, suddenly becomes tense when Moniz and the rest attempt to return to Maui.
Nor is his book confined to this county. Moniz traveled much during his life, and he has much tell of his journeys. He also uses the book to give context and backstory to some of his previously published plays and fiction, as well as his thoughts on literature, music and movies.
“[T]his memoir is hardly about vanity,” Moniz writes in the introduction. “Instead, it’s my trip down memory lane as well as an accounting of the (good) deeds of my life, a loose chronology of my journey through this world. It may be of no interest to some, charm a few fascinated by subcultures, or perhaps cause a pocket of local readers to reminisce. Nevertheless, I offer a humble invitation to you to experience the life of one barefoot Maui boy between 1945 and the present.”
Moniz is a crafty student of human nature, which makes his memoir a delightful, slightly mischievous look at Maui.