This book offers a profound exploration into the Hawaiian oral storytelling tradition of hula and the diversity of gender expression. "Ho‘onani: Hula Warrior," based on a true story, centers on a young child who aspires to lead the boys-only hula troupe at her school. Ho'onani, who identifies as being 'in-between' and doesn't align with the traditional labels of wahine (girl) or kāne (boy), faces challenges in this journey. The text is a valuable resource for discussions about inclusivity and belonging, emphasizing the importance of embracing diverse, multiple identities and acknowledging everyone's unique, complex individuality.

Social Justice Activities:

Relevant Social Justice Standards:

Identity 2. Students will develop language and historical and cultural knowledge that affirm and accurately describe their membership in multiple identity groups.

Identity 3. Students will recognize that people’s multiple identities interact and create unique and complex individuals.

Identity 5. Students will recognize traits of the dominant culture, their home culture and other cultures and understand how they negotiate their own identity in multiple spaces.

Diversity 8. Students will respectfully express curiosity about the history and lived experiences of others and will exchange ideas and beliefs in an open-minded way.

Diversity 9. Students will respond to diversity by building empathy, respect, understanding and connection.

Diversity 10. Students will examine diversity in social, cultural, political and historical contexts rather than in ways that are superficial or oversimplified.

Justice 11. Students will recognize stereotypes and relate to people as individuals rather than representatives of groups.

Reading Strategies:

Character Analysis: Analyze Kumu Hina's character traits. How do they make her an effective leader? How do Ho'onani's sister's feelings change along the plot of the story?

Speaking & Listening: Study what the word "Aloha" means. Discuss how your classroom community can express Aloha with one another. Use this text to discuss ways that support student skills in valuing diversity and inclusion.

Mythology/Legends: evaluate how hula was a way for Hawaiians to document oral history and includes storytelling similar to written mythology and legends.

Book Details:
  • Fiction, All Ages
  • Perspectives: Hawaiian, Gender Identity
  • Based off the documentary: A Place in The Middle 
  • Subject Integration: Dance, Music, Ancient Traditions of Hawai'i

Book covers images are from publishers and in the public domain