For my bridal party, I wanted to buy something personal, and I don’t know how to get more personal than handpicking books for people I adore. With an eclectic mix flying in from four states, I pondered which titles to buy my unique people for weeks. On glue-sticked dedication plates from Oiseaux Vintage Paperie, I looped their names with love in Sharpie.
The Hawaii Farmers Market Cookbook Volume 2: The Chefs’ Guide to Fresh Island Foods by Hawai‘i Farm Bureau Federation
For my one and only blood sibling, who escorted me down the aisle and picked a song for our brother/sister dance, I (thinking of how we called in sick the same days and both made comfort food) chose a cookbook of local cuisine edited by Joan Namkoong. Not only because Hawai‘i will always be home, but because of our culinary upbringing: how we walked the tropical-hot two blocks to our grandparents’ restaurant after elementary school. We’d wash dishes, fill shoyu bottles and hot mustard jars, portion noodles, and refill sodas and waters until our parents picked us up. We worked there well into adulthood until the doors closed.
Our noodle-love has also trailed us into our thirties. Oodles more complex than the average all-I-ate-in-college-was-ramen connection, you showed me pho in Maryland, and I dragged you to Ki Ramen in Pennsylvania, where you were braver than me and ordered the inferno bowl. While this cookbook doesn’t feature noodle soup, there are pasta dishes (carbs!) and stews (soupy!) with local ingredients to transport us home, if we aren’t already there.
Moon: Letters, Maps, Poems by Jennifer S. Cheng
Poetry because you said it’s a “treat” for you. The cover is the same palette as the wedding colors. I bought this with ultimate respect for the moon and how much she influences us. The prelude, “Sequesterings,” reminds me of our connective words, careful utterances, and serious correspondence. Cheng writes, “Sometimes it helps to say it through a seashell. The sound of it washed in waves, loud yet silent, trailing in and out. Sometimes it wants to be said with a slowness that looms, an hour giving way to cloud and fog, the way it starts outside my window, twenty blocks to the shore, and drifts gradually toward me until my apartment, four floors up, is immersed in a pale envelope.” At first glance, Cheng’s second book makes me think of Maggie Nelson (our fangirl obsession) and the cutting perfection of Bluets. This book can be something else for us.
Hemming the Water by Yona Harvey
Remember walking the wrong way across the bridge in our “haze”? Then, we knew that we wanted to know her words. I hope this finds you at the right time and reminds you of one of our many happy memories. In a review of Harvey’s debut for Literary Mama, Alyse Bensel writes, “Harvey resurrects and remembers family through poetic retelling. Such rich language provokes the reader to begin sorting through the items remembered and forgotten through generations and to imagine new objects to keep and savor.” Love makes artifacts, poetry, of things. For example, I saved the black lace shorts I have long outgrown and the cashmere sweater with a hole in the sleeve because I wore it the day I met my now husband, my family, at your absolute insistence.
Cape Verdean Blues by Shauna Barbosa
Because my roommate was traveling, I drove to your house before me and my future husband’s first date. I needed help buttoning the back of my Peter Pan-collared shirt. You said I smelled good. For a living, for our souls, we create and carve sentences, and your words sent me into the night in which my whole life would change. For honest opinions in early and late reads of manuscript pages, emails, texts, first-date presentation, you’re my go-to. To reading poetry before smithing words influenced by our shared Pacific! Speaking of oceans, isn’t Barbosa’s cover mesmerizing? And these lines from “Strology Gemini”: “Commit to thinking in terms outside of your bones. They move. Then they don’t.”
Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life by Cleo Wade
I wanted to give you a book I wish I had while I blossomed and stumbled into adulthood. No one has all the answers, and it’s nice being reminded of that. I know words matter to you: the tattoos on your foot and ribs. And I, with a similar earnestness, know how much love means to you, to us: the tattoo on my shoulder. Sometimes we need a bridge in this mean world, and this bridge can be, as Wade writes, the “healing power of kitchen-table conversation.” My grandmother’s kitchen table in Hawai‘i is one of my favorite places in the world. What do you remember about yours? I’ve heard stories of the food there. I can only imagine the conversation. Like tattoos, like love, like memory, I hope this book brings you joy and comfort.
Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed
Everything you touch is pretty, and I love the way your laugh and stories fill a room. A sucker for vivacious women, Strayed is my (many’s) earthly angel, blessing hearts that seek. For fun, I flip to random pages of books to see what they tell me and carry their wisdom with me throughout the day. Decorate the coffee table with this lime-green glory, and if—or when—you need it, the book can be something to carry with you. About the positive impact of quotes, Strayed writes, “I believe in the power of words to help us reset our intentions, clarify our thoughts, and create a counternarrative to the voice of doubt many of us have murmuring in our heads—the one that says You can’t, you won’t, you shouldn’t have.”