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The Bitter Legacy of American Colonialism

The Bitter Legacy of American Colonialism

Journalist Jessica Machado talks about how growing up in the colonized land of Hawaii warped her sense of belonging in the world.

When journalist Jessica Machado began writing the story of her life, her mother had just died. She was 25, filled with grief, and still in search of a place to belong. Despite the oft-praised beauty of Hawaii, where she was born and raised, Machado, an editor at NBC News, had long felt ostracized and isolated, far from the “don’t worry, be happy” mentality projected upon Hawaiians by western media.

In Local: A Memoir, Machado explores that loneliness, and more importantly, how the colonization of Hawaii and the whitewashing of its culture and mythology impacts this sense of belonging for her and many other native Hawaiians. Despite seeming unrelated, these two topics topics compliment one another in this coming-of-age story about love, self-discovery, and grief.

For this episode of Discourse Pod, I spoke with Machado, who is a former editor and cherished colleague of mine, about her decision to infuse Local with Hawaiian history and mythology, how parenthood has changed her perspective, having a seat at the table as a Hawaiian journalist, and her journey toward forgiving herself.

“I would say above anything else, the book is a sort of message around, ‘You don't have to be alone.’ There are ways to connect and there are people to connect to, and land to connect to. There's culture to connect to,” Machado said during our interview. “I would also like to have readers take away … that they want to know more about Hawaii, and they want to be good tourists and want to understand our nation's history — how they've done this [colonization] to many other places — and to have that curiosity, to rethink any history that we're taught.”