Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Hello, World.

 I have been traveling across the country, looking at America. And America has been looking at me.

On book tour for  my novel, THE SPY LOVER, I read to Mexican and Latino audiences in California and Florida,  articulate book lovers who, in spite of my half-Hawaiian heritage, posed questions to me as if I were a pure-blood white woman, perhaps because my skin was not brown enough for them. Conversely, I've been amongst white Texans, Georgians, and Alabamans (my white father's home state), some of whom I felt regarded me as not-quite authentic American, perhaps because my skin was not pale enough.  

 Alone  in motel rooms, I stared into mirrors asking the old, worn-out question I have asked all my life: "WHO AM I?" That is, where do I belong in society? To what group do I owe my allegiance? With my white heritage? Or with my brown-skinned heritage? And why does it have to be either, or? This is a  song all multi-cultural, bi-racial, half-breed, mulatto, mixed-bloods have been singing all our lives: Who am I?

We don't belong in any one group, and thus are forced to 'blend,' to resort like chameleons to 'cryptic coloration.' That is, to consciously slip into the cadences and vernacular and dress-codes of each group we encounter, to adapt ourselves to each environment, each situation, each racial and cultural gathering in order to be accepted, to belong. (A friend calls it 'working both sides of the street.')  This is not an intelligent way to live because one rarely feels authentic, even to one's self.

At home in Hawaii, I am often thought of as too 'haolefied' that is, too white, too mainland America.  But in New York City I'm considered an islander (replete with shark fin tattooes circling my ankles),  the token 'exotic' of which there is one in every hip NewYork gathering. This confusion has often resulted in a shizophrenic self-image while I juggle two totally different personas: the island girl and the city girl, neither of whom really fits in.

Oh, I grow weary!  My hyphenated friends grow weary - all my Asian-American, African-American, Native-American, East Indian-American friends with a mother from one race, a father from another.  We are tired of adapting, tired of the subterfuge, the cryptic coloration. We long to be ourselves. Maybe we should take lessons from the youngsters: multi-colored, multi-tongued hip-hoppers who are beating the 'established' English language into submission. Perhaps this is their urgent dispatch to the world,  that the mixed blood coursing through our veins is precisely Who We Are: Hybrids of the Future. And the future is here. It's now.

 In one of his  brilliant novels, John Le Carre wrote that "Everything must wear a disguise in order to be real." Except when it applies to  undercover agents,  this strikes me as oxymoronic. The only thing real is the skin that covers us, and the deeper truths summoned from our soul.

 So, the next time someone stares at my kinky hair, my tattooed ankles and tan complexion, and asks me what I am, what my 'background' is,  I have resolved to gaze at them with an unblinking fixity and respond that I am simply - unapologetically - me.

There will be more  to come on this  complex subject.  I welcome your comments.

Thanks and alohas, its good to be back!   Kiana


Thursday, March 21, 2013


Hello World.

I'm thinking just now of Norman Mailer, one of the Literary Lions of the second half of the 20th century.  He was a wildcat, a brilliant thinker, whether you loved him, or hated him. He wrote brilliant books like "Advertisements for Myself," "Fire On the Moon," (Pulitzer),  and "Ancient Evenings," an Egyptian epic that few critics or readers understood, but somehow we knew it was brilliant.  I loved reading him because he always shocked me into new realizations about the human psyche, about how pain has a purpose, about how, if we are born to write, it is a sacrilege not to.

It is true, Mailer stabbed one of his six wives, fathered nine children, squandered his talents on self-made vanity films, and publicly belittled and tormented legendary Feminists like Germaine Greer and Gloria Steinem. But he was also a loving (though philandering) husband, a devoted father, supporting  all his kids through college, and - a little known fact - he was incredibly generous and patient with younger, up and coming writers. To my knowledge he answered every note he ever received.

I had the privilege of knowing Norman Mailer as a teacher and mentor.  In long, instructive letters, he scolded me about over-writing, warned me about using too many adjectives as scaffolding.  And constantly reminded me to always ALWAYS respect my readers, because they are generally more intelligent than we are!  Mailer  died two years ago and the media was chock full of his  notorious life - his drinking, his fistfights, his women,  his love of giving the world the finger - and most of all his enduringly brilliant mind.  But no one talked about his doubting side, the side of the author who was often hurt, even ignored  by book reviewers.

Recently a writer-friend who was also mentored by Mailer sent a me letter he wrote her in his later years, trying to console her when sales of her book were lagging. Its a wonderful letter that ALL writers should read,  and maybe readers should too, because it talks about the pain and loneliness of writing,  and how that pain and loneliness can be transformed into beauty, and how - no matter what - we must soldier on.

"Dear Kathy,
That was a fine and lovely letter you wrote on "Harlot's Ghost" [one of his novels about the CIA] and came on just the right morning, since I'd just finished reading a couple of dull and dumb and snide reviews about my book and was sitting on my anger, so you saved me from one of those days of gloom and inner wrath.

I know the results of your book have been disappointing, and all I can tell that on nine out of ten works for all of us, it's like that. We never get what we put  into it, and the only way we can keep going is to tell  ourselves that the reward, ironically, is in the writing, in all those bad awful days of hating the book, being lost in it, knowing the limitations of one's talent - and all those depressions.

But nonetheless, we do have the experience. We write the book. That's probably the only reward we're going to get.  We get published, there are hassles, and it never turns out the way you hope.  But then over the years it's all right. The books are there; people occasionally read them, and we can feel halfway decent about ourselves. Such is the wisdom of the part of me, a small part, I hope, that has turned to stoicism in my later years."

  It is a wise and beautiful letter that encourages us writers to press on, no matter the sacrifice, no matter the cost. No matter the loneliness. And it's a valuable reminder that even Literary Lions get the blues.

Thank you, Norman Mailer!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Kindle Fire Giveaway!

Hello everyone! I'm participating in another great giveaway, sponsored by "I am a Reader, Not a Writer." This giveaway is a promotion for The Spy Lover & Prize Winning Pacific Stories. My books are part of this giveaway, and there are a few other authors participating, too.

 The winner will have the option of receiving a Kindle Fire HD (US Only)

Or $199 Gift Card (International)

Or $199 in Paypal Cash (International)

This giveaway is sponsored by these Authors:

The Reluctant Bachelorette by Rachael Anderson

Enter using the Rafflecopter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The SPY LOVER book blast

I am pleased to be a part of a great book blast for my book The SPY LOVER, hosted by I Am A Reader, Not a Writer. If you scroll down to the bottom of the post, you can enter to win a $50 Amazon gift card. Good luck!

The Spy Lover by Kiana Davenport

Thrust into the savagery of the Civil War, a Chinese immigrant serving in the Union Army, a nurse doubling as a spy for the North, and a one-armed Confederate cavalryman find their lives inextricably entwined.

Fleeing drought and famine in China, Johnny Tom arrives in America with dreams of becoming a citizen. Having survived vigilantes hunting “yellow dogs” and slave auction- blocks, Johnny is kidnapped from his Mississippi village by Confederate soldiers, taken from his wife and daughter, and forced to fight for the South. Eventually defecting to the Union side, he is promised American citizenship in exchange for his loyal services. But first Johnny must survive the butchery of battles and the cruelties inflicted on non-white soldiers.

Desperate to find Johnny, his daughter, Era, is enlisted as a spy. She agrees to work as a nurse at Confederate camps while scouting for the North. Amidst the unspeakable carnage of wounded soldiers, she finds solace in Warren Petticomb, a cavalryman who lost an arm at Shiloh. As devastation mounts in both armies, Era must choose where her loyalties lie—with her beloved father in the North, or with the man who passionately sustains her in the South.

A novel of extraordinary scope that will stand as a defining work on the Chinese immigrant experience, The Spy Lover is a paean to the transcendence of love and the resilience of the human spirit.

Review from the Huffington Post
"...A great story told with such beautiful prose I am hoping The Spy Lover will be picked up by Ang Lee or Steven Spielberg. Kiana Davenport is a brilliant writer. [Based] on her ancestors from the American South and global East, The Spy Lover takes the incredibly difficult...topics of race, gender, slavery and war and artfully weaves them into a specific story. Davenport is genius at capturing complex times, and complications of the heart. It's been a long time since I cried while reading a novel, and that happened several times while reading The Spy Lover...I couldn't wait to finish the story, but grieved when it ended. That's exactly how I felt when I finished reading Gone With The Wind so many years go. If you need a holiday escape...or want to spend time in a different world read... The Spy Lover!" - Ellen Snortland for The Huffington Post


Author Kiana Davenport

KIANA DAVENPORT is descended from a full-blooded Native Hawaiian mother, and a Caucasian father from Talladega, Alabama. Her father, Braxton Bragg Davenport, was a sailor in the U.S. Navy, stationed at Pearl Harbor, when he fell in love with her mother, Emma Kealoha Awaawa Kanoho Houghtailing. On her mother's side, Kiana traces her ancestry back to the first Polynesian settlers to the Hawaiian Islands who arrived almost two thousand years ago from Tahiti and the Tuamotu's. On her father's side, she traces her ancestry to John Davenport, the puritan clergyman who co-founded the American colony of New Haven, Connecticut in 1638.

Kiana is the author of the internationally best-selling novels, SHARK DIALOGUES, SONG OF THE EXILE, HOUSE OF MANY GODS, and a new novel, THE SPY LOVER, now available in paperback and on Kindle. She is also the author of the collections, HOUSE OF SKIN PRIZE-WINNING STORIES, CANNIBAL NIGHTS, PACIFIC STORIES Volume II, and OPIUM DREAMS, PACIFIC STORIES, VOLUME III. All three collections have been Kindle bestsellers. She has also been a guest blogger on Huffington Post.

A graduate of the University of Hawaii, Kiana has been a Bunting Fellow at Harvard University, a Visiting Writer at Wesleyan University, and a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant. Her short stories have won numerous O. Henry Awards, Pushcart Prizes, and the Best American Short Story Award, 2000. Her novels and short stories have been translated into twenty-one languages. She lives in Hawaii and New York City.

Praise for Kiana Davenport

“An epic feminine saga!  Davenport’s prose is sharp and shining as a sword.”
-Isabel Allende on Shark Dialogues

“Deeply Moving.  You can’t read Kiana Davenport without being transformed.”
-Alice Walker on Song of the Exile

“A powerful and moving experience.”
-The Washington Post on House of Many Gods

By Kiana Davenport

Kiana Davenport’s latest novel is a powerful epic about the American Civil War, which extends this beloved writer’s vision to an entirely new level. Based on her family history, it is at once an historical novel, a haunting love story, and a brilliant expose on the treatment of minorities during the Civil War.  Meticulously researched, it is finally a story of human sacrifice and personal redemption.  A magnificent novel that crosses all genres, THE SPY LOVER is a work of astonishing beauty that promises to become a classic.    

Johnny Tom, a Chinese immigrant, and his beautiful Creek Indian wife, and daughter, Era, live in Shisan, a Chinese settlement along the Mississippi River. Their life is simple and idyllic, until Confederate soldiers invade the town, kidnap the men and force them into service, fighting for the South and slavery. At the first opportunity, many Chinese soldiers defect to the Union Army. In revenge, the Confederates return to Shisan to rape and torture their wives and daughters. Defiled and half-mad, Era sets out to find her father and is plunged into the full savagery and horror of the War.  Lured by Union officials to pose as a nurse while spying on the Confederate army, she falls in love with a wounded Confederate cavalryman, and her loyalties become divided between her beloved father in the North, and the gallant soldier who sustains her in the South.

THE SPY LOVER is ostensibly a novel about the abiding love between a man and a woman, between a father and daughter, and the love of a man for his country. Ultimately, it is a meditation on the ethical choice, on honoring one’s moral obligation.

“I never planned to write an historical novel, or a love story, or a spy thriller, or a story about how brave Chinese soldiers were used as throw-aways in the Civil War. I simply set out to tell the story of my ancestors, who fought on opposing sides of that War.”
- Kiana Davenport

Points of Interest

U.S. Civil War Research – Kiana’s research for THE SPY LOVER was exhaustive.  For five years she studied correspondences and documents and traveled to the battlefields of the Civil War, discovering facts that she hoped would fascinate her readers.  She learned about Southern women collecting urine from which to distill niter for making gunpowder. And she learned how women planted and harvested poppies, then scored and gathered from poppy-pods the sap known as opium.  She read books on spy-codes used in the War, what spies were paid, and how they were executed when caught by the enemy.  She lived and breathed the Civil War, letting it engulf her as she wrote her novel.

Kiana’s Heritage – Kiana’s ancestor, Warren Rowan Davenport, was a cavalryman who rode for the Confederacy in the Civil War with a famous unit known as the Prattville Dragoons, of Prattville, Alabama. Her research on Warren Davenport entailed reading over forty books on the War, then basing her fictional character, Warren Petticomb, on her Southern ancestor. Johnny Tom is based on another of Kiana’s ancestors, John Tommy Kam, who emigrated from Canton, China, to Hawaii and finally to the East coast of the U.S. While Kiana had access to tattered correspondences and documents from Warren Davenport, she had little but word-of-mouth stories from her Chinese uncle about his ancestor, John Tommy Kam. Eventually, she uncovered articles about Chinese soldiers who had fought valiantly in the Civil War, including two articles about John Tommy Kam.  Finally, she discovered his war records, and the grounds at Gettysburg where he is buried with his comrades, the Excelsior Brigade of New York State.

Multicultural Themes - THE SPY LOVER is the story of Chinese soldiers who fought valiantly for a country that, afterwards, refused them American citizenship. It also unveils the gross mistreatment of Native Americans, African Americans, “mix-bloods” and other minorities who served honorably in the American Civil War. Importantly, it is also the tragic story of Native American women - mothers and daughters - kidnapped and raped by slave-owners who used them as breeders of a more “superior” kind of slave.


“Torrid, yet intelligent…her writing compares with Toni Morrison.”
—Glamour on Shark Dialogues

"The strengths of this novel are many.  Davenport is a superb storyteller!”
—The Seattle Times on Song of the Exile

“Davenport mines the depths of emotion…Readers who enjoy a Doctor Shivago-like saga will appreciate the broad scope of this novel”
-Library Journal on House of Many Gods

“Complex, resonant … handles the sweep of history and the nuance of the personal equally well.”
— San Francisco Chronicle on Shark Dialogues

BookBlast $50 Giveaway
Ends 3/14/13

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, January 14, 2013

Prize-Winning Pacific Stories: Boxed Set Available Now

A boxed set for all my prize-winning short stories is now available on Amazon. The download is free for Amazon Prime Members for a limited time.

These volumes were featured on The Indie Spotlight.