Leilehua Grad’s Memoir Aims To Stir Others To Action, Writing
Julia Estrella has much to say about the condition of the world and of our own health, and she did so in her hometown Oct. 25 to launch her memoir, Being Local in Hawai’i: Talking Story with Julia of Wahiawa.
The book launch/talk story was held at Wahiawa Botanical Garden and sponsored by Wahiawa Historical Society. By design, the program encouraged writing by Leilehua High School juniors and seniors, who submitted essays on a topic of their choice for judging.
Winners of $50 each plus a free Being Local book were Jordan Maddox, Niko Lemalu and Anthony Joseph Castillo. Runners-up were Joanna Largosa, Lovely Janairo, Kimonako Washington and Keola Spencer. Estrella hopes to repeat the contest at her alma mater in the future to stir the pool of budding authors.
“I want to encourage others to write their memoirs,” she said. “Otherwise the memories will be lost.”
A self-described activist, Estrella has proven it many times over the years since graduating from Leilehua in 1958, and on through her studies at UH Manoa, Claremont School of Theology and UC Berkeley.
Born Keiko Matsui Higa in 1940 at her family home in Wahiawa, Estrella said she wanted to honor her Okinawan/Nisei heritage by using her birth name for authorship. She’s the widow of Roger Estrella and has a grown son, Robert, who works as a photographer at Disney’s Aulani resort.
As the Leilehua essay writers read through the 252 pages of Being Local, they will find a wealth of stories about Estrella’s protests of social, economic and racial injustices, from here to Cuban villages and the slums of Nairobi.
“I even got arrested at Honolulu city hall following our 40 days of rain (in 2006) — when the homeless had nowhere to go,” Estrella said proudly.
A sampling from the book of her early years: dashing for the family bomb shelter as a kamikaze pilot spiraled to a crash a block away from their Kuahiwi Street house; reporting before dawn to her Japanese language class behind the Top Hat bar; helping her mother raise dahlias for the fallen soldiers during WW2; stabbing future Hawaii Chief Justice Ron Moon in the wrist with her pencil in sixth grade.
Estrella is a lifelong learner who’s not slowing down. She has both worked and volunteered for missions of the Methodist, Bahai, Buddhist and Congrega-tional faiths.
Her latest and strongest passion now is to reinvent health care, eat healthy and, of course, talk and write about it for others.
‘Olelo Channel 53 recorded the Wahiawa meeting, and will air it at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7, 4 p.m. Dec. 8, 10:30 a.m. Dec. 10 and 10 a.m. Dec. 14. To order the book or ask about future book-signing talks, visit beinglocalinhawaii.com or call 852-1892.