Most people go to Hawaii to sit on the beach and drink mai tais. Sarah Vowell goes to Hawaii to sit in state archives and read letters from New England missionaries from the early 1800s.
“I would come home and [people] would be like, ‘Why don’t you have a tan?’ ” Vowell said at the Bell House last month during a taping of Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast. “Why? [Because] I just spent three weeks in the Hawaii State Archives wearing a cardigan.”
But thanks to her tan-free skin, we have such amusing and insightful looks at American history, from studies on assassinated presidents to New England Puritans to her most-recent exploration of America’s rise as an imperial power.
“Unfamiliar Fishes,” Vowell’s fifth book, looks at the decades leading up to the annexation of Hawaii in 1898 and the “orgy” of imperialism that followed, including invasions of Cuba and the Philippines and take-overs of Guam and Puerto Rico.
It may not drag you off of a beach in Hawaii, but when Vowell reads at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central branch on April 10, we highly recommend you don your cardigan and spend the afternoon with her indoors, among the archives.
Sarah Vowell at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central branch [Flatbush Avenue at Eastern Parkway in Grand Army Plaza in Park Slope, (718) 230-2100], April 10 at 1:30 pm. Free. For info, visit www.brooklynpubliclibrary.org.