“Not Quite Nostalgia” by Loraine Kanervisto

Reading Rolling the R’s and revisiting Kalihi during college for our AAAS photo essay was a very strange experience. I grew up in Chinatown and attended kindergarten through the eighth grade in Kalihi, swimming in the pool at Palama Settlement or haunting the Fun Factory in Kam Shopping Center when I cut class. Nostalgia wasn’t really the best word to describe the feeling I got while reading and researching Rolling the R’s. I had never lived farther than a mile and a half away from the neighborhood the book describes and was just barely an adult at the time of my research. Looking back on my first reading of it, I was bewildered and very slowly surprised that yes, I was reading something that often paralleled my childhood, location memory, language memory, and feelings of being a queer outsider in a way that I’ll probably never find in any other book.

All at once, I had a chance to revisit areas familiar to me as a child, see those same places Linmark describes and think about how they overlapped, think about what my father told me about his Kalihi Valley upbringing, and also wonder how the moods of certain spaces were similar and dissimilar across all these decades of experience. Some things seem like they might go on forever—like maybe I’ll always be able to jump on an older and shittier bus heading away from tourists and toward Kalihi Transit Center, wander into a chalky classroom and get busted for talking Pidgin, and then go check out a cellophane-wrapped hardcover of Judy Blume from the library. Who knows?

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