Kaui Hart Hemmings – the writer of ‘The Descendants’ on her story

Why do I write about families?

When asked, which is unfortunately quite often, I usually just make something up that sounds reflective. I don't like the question. I have no interest in knowing why I write the things I do, but as it's asked so frequently I figured I should put some thought into it. I keep going back to one particular day. I'll walk you through it, show my work like you're supposed to do in algebra class, and by the end maybe I'll have a sensible answer.

It's the summer of 1987 in Honolulu, Hawaii. I'm an 11-year-old wannabe pro-surfer hitchhiking home in a Camero driven by a man named Eagle. Eagle was in a war and he's telling my sister and me about it. He wears aviator sunglasses that shield his eyes and yet show exactly whatever he's looking at. My sister (technically, my stepsister) is in the front seat and I'm thankful because she has to talk. In the back I can daydream with my arm slung around my surfboard like it's my boyfriend. I'm thinking about the present I'm about to get. I didn't ask for a pony. I didn't want new clothes, a new bikini, a surfboard, or Jimmy Cliff and Yellowman tapes. For my 11th birthday I asked to be adopted.

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