Our Reading Lives

Another Ode For A Hometown Bookstore

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Connie Pan

Senior Contributor

Connie Pan is a writer and editor from Maui, Hawai‘i. She earned an MFA in fiction from West Virginia University and a BA in creative writing from Grand Valley State University. Her writing has appeared in Bamboo Ridge, Carve, HelloGiggles, PRISM International, The Billfold, and elsewhere. An excerpt from her novel-in-progress was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Instagram: @csnpan Twitter: @panlikepeter

On my annual trip to Maui, my bags felt light returning. Sadly, another bookstore of mine closed: the Barnes & Noble in Lahaina Gateway Center with the Hawaiiana section I adored up front. Unfortunately, I’m no stranger to losing personal literary landmarks. First, I lost my Waldenbooks in the Lahaina Cannery Mall then Schuler Books & Music on Alpine Avenue.

In my hometown for over a decade, this particular Barnes & Noble remained a constant. Every year, I carved out a square in my suitcase for bookish purchases. When I travel, I search for titles. Those bright spines become my souvenirs. I adored taking my grandma on shopping sprees. For the holidays, I bought her and my father gift cards, so they could holoholo together. He loves his music, and she loves her coloring books.

Folks You Meet In Longs And Other Stories Lee Cataluna coverThere, I found a title that serves as a balm whenever I’m homesick, Folks You Meet in Longs and Other Stories by Lee Cataluna. As I held it in my hands, I loved that I could see my Longs from the bookstore. Sometimes I walked from Longs across the busy street to my Barnes & Noble. The book, my favorite yellow, radiates love like the sun on my shelf. When I need to hear a voice that reminds me of home, I return to it like poetry. From “Nadine Tam Sing—Longs Worker”: “Most people, they come in and buy their hope. They hope they going lose weight or look younger or not hurt so much all the time. They hope this eye shadow going impress Leighton Pacheco or that Ace bandage going fix their leg.” 

After seeing the building that housed so many good memories empty, I looked for books elsewhere but, other than fish and plant guides in the fancy ABC Stores, nothing. Plus, I already own those or a version of those.

Maui Friends Of The Library Sign
When I bemoaned the closing of yet another Lahaina bookstore, my dad told me about one in the Wharf Cinema Center. On our single day on Front Street for our traditional calamari and horizon-stares, my husband insisted we ride the shuttle to the Wharf to visit the Maui Friends of the Library. Heartbroken, I hemmed, but it’s difficult for me to resist books.

Maui Friends Of The Library Bookstore
While browsing, I heard the volunteer say—three times—that the Maui Friends of the Library is the only bookstore on the west side of the island, which filled me with sadness. He didn’t say this rehearsed line with pride. He said it in a way that drew attention to the ridiculousness of it. Sure, new books await over the Pali, but there’s something dreamy and convenient about having a bookstore in your neighborhood.

The most time I spent on the other side was when I worked at my grandparents’ restaurant. Weekly, we drove the 40-something minutes in my grandfather’s van to buy supplies, eat brunch, and visit my great-grandfather’s grave. I try to imagine asking them to stop at a bookstore. I was so shy and they were so busy, I don’t know if I would have.

Wild Meat And The Bully Burgers Lois-Ann Yamanaka coverI’m glad I agreed to my husband’s suggestion because I found a copy of Lois-Ann Yamanaka’s Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers. Splattered with red dirt like someone kept it outside on a lanai, it’s a piece of home in more ways than one. A previous owner dog-eared page 247. The only dog-eared page, I wonder what they loved about “Wrong Words.” No matter how much I reread the page, I can never know.