Author and playwright Milton Murayama was 93 years old when he passed away on July 27 in San Francisco, an ocean away from the dry, dusty plantation surroundings that had marked his early life. Although he never returned to Lahaina to live, memories of those early years informed his writing and captured the hearts of a new generation of local writers and readers. His four novels — “All I Asking for is My Body,” self-published in 1975; “Five Years on a Rock,” published in 1994; “Plantation Boy,” published in 1998; and the last in his tetralogy, “Dying in a Strange Land,” published in 2008, were comfort food for young local writers hungry for prose that spoke to lives and experiences. Milton Murayama became their guru.
The Herald asked longtime local writer Marie Hara (and former Herald staff writer) to share her memories of Murayama. Marie extended the invitation to four other Island writers who were greatly impacted by the work of Milton Murayama.
Special thanks for Carol Abe from University of Hawai‘i Press, publisher of Murayama’s last three books, for sharing his book covers as well as other photos.
“WORDSMITH TO THE END” — By Marie Hara
To look back in admiration at Milton Murayama’s brilliant and pioneering career as a writer who chose to tell his truth about Hawai‘i’s plantation life is easy. His five books, starting with the self-published “All I Asking For is My Body” and continuing with “Five Years on a Rock,” “Plantation Boy,” “Dying in a Strange Land” and “Odds and Ends” (a manuscript) won him avid readers.
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