[06/13/23] McDougall, Brandy Nalani: 'Āina Hānau / Birth Lands
University of Arizona Press, paperback
Publication Date: June 13, 2023
Publisher Marketing: 'Āina Hānau / Birth Land is a powerful collection of new poems by Kanaka ʻŌiwi (Native Hawaiian) poet Brandy Nālani McDougall. 'Āina hānau--or the land of one's birth--signifies identity through intimate and familial connections to place and creates a profound bond between the people in a community. McDougall's poems flow seamlessly between 'Ōlelo Hawai'i and English, forming rhythms and patterns that impress on the reader a deep understanding of the land. Tracing flows from the mountains to the ocean, from the sky to the earth, and from ancestor to mother to child, these poems are rooted in the rich ancestral and contemporary literature of Hawaiʻi --moʻolelo, moʻokūʻauhau, and mele --honoring Hawaiian ʻāina, culture, language, histories, aesthetics, and futures.
The poems in Āina Hānau / Birth Land cycle through sacred and personal narratives while exposing and fighting ongoing American imperialism, settler colonialism, militarism, and social and environmental injustice to protect the ʻāina and its people. The ongoing environmental crisis in Hawaiʻi, inextricably linked to colonialism and tourism, is captured with stark intensity as McDougall writes, Violence is what we settle for / because we've been led to believe / green paper can feed us / more than green land. The experiences of birth, motherhood, miscarriage, and the power of Native Hawaiian traditions and self-advocacy in an often dismissive medical system is powerfully narrated by the speaker of the titular poem, written for McDougall's daughters.
'Āina Hānau reflects on what it means to be from and belong to an ʻāina hānau, as well as what it means to be an 'āina hānau, as all mothers serve as the first birth lands for their children.