“I think about the many ways peers and mentors and editors have pushed me toward the stereotype of Hawaiʻi that they consume every day in popular culture,” writes Mariah Rigg. “I think about how to write away from all of this.” In this essay, Digg critiques Joan Didion’s depictions in Hawaii, namely in the essays “Letter from Paradise” and “In the Islands,” calling them reductive and prescriptive and not anything like the Hawaii she remembers — the place she calls home.

To “wrench,” to “shape,” to “render” and “remake” are largely violent verbs. They are things one often does without consent. What Didion proposes, in her literary claims to place, sounds a lot like what Trask calls deculturation, like the distortion, disfiguration, and destruction of a place and people, which are among colonialism’s main goals. What Didion is proposing resembles literary imperialism.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.