NACCHO Book Club: Moloka’i & Daughter of Moloka’i

by Emily Yox, MPH

Each month, NACCHO brings you a new public health book, read and reviewed by NACCHO staff. Book reviews in this series originally appeared on NACCHO Voice: The Word on Local health Departments and are republished here with permission.

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There are a couple of firsts in this recommendation–I am recommending two books instead of just one, and these fall closer to the literature/fiction category than other recommendations I’ve written before. However, while I wavered for a moment on whether or not I should stray from my standard, more academically focused recommendations, I ultimately decided to share my thoughts on these books, given their relevance to challenges today.

These books tell the story of two generations of women, one Hawaiian, one Hawaiian and Japanese. The initial book shares the story of an 11-year-old girl, who upon learning she had leprosy, was essentially banished to the island of Moloka’i, a standard practice in Hawaii during the late 1800s to the mid-20th century. It shares her life and the struggles she experienced during this time. The second follows her daughter, born to parents with leprosy and given up for adoption, as was the law at that time.

Daughter of Moloka’i covers the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in World War II, and brings to light the atrocious treatment of Asians and Asian-Americans during this period. This is important perspective to understand, and while this book is fiction, the experiences of the characters are similar to those who experienced this in real life. Given the increasing racism towards Asians, books like these are important to understand the long history of racism and segregation experienced by Asians in the United States.

These are beautifully written stories that captivated me, made me realize the challenges that brutal public health measures inflicted on people, and helped me to better understand the treatment of Asians in the United States. I hope you enjoy them!

Want to discuss this book and others? Head over to NACCHO’s Virtual Communities page and connect with peers.

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Author Profile

Emily Yox, MPH
Emily Yox is the Program Analyst for Global Health at the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) in Washington, DC. In her role, she encourages US local health departments to understand the valuable perspective that global health programs can provide to domestic public health work. Emily completed her MPH in Global Health Epidemiology and Disease Control at the George Washington University Milken Institute of Public Health. She also holds a BA in International Studies from American University, School of International Service.