The Colony

I have a book recommendation for you today. It's John Tayman's "The Colony" and it's an excellently-written account of the Hawaiian leprosy exiles that were banished to a fortress-like peninsula on the island of Molokai. This took place starting in 1866 and continued for over a century. Over eight thousand men, women, and children left to fend for themselves -- or die -- with no law, little shelter, and far too little food. Forty-five percent of the exiles died within the first 5 years of being on the island. And did I mention many of those sent to the colony didn't even have leprosy?

Publisher's Description:
The Colony reveals the untold history of the infamous American leprosy colony on Molokai and of the extraordinary people who struggled to survive under the most horrific circumstances. John Tayman tells the fantastic saga of this horrible and hopeful place--at one time the most famous community in the world--and of the individuals involved. The result is a searing tale of survival and bravery,
and a testament to the power of faith, compassion, and heroism.

One of the things that has really made reading this book particularly powerful for me is my familliarity with Hawaii and, especially how it relates to the opening story of a man and his family fleeing the government to the Kalalau Valley on Kauai. Having hiked on the narrow ledges alongside the Na Pali cliffs; tented amongst the trees near the Kalalau beach; and showered beneath the waterfalls in this valley, the story of this family came alive for me in ways that I imagine most readers won't be able to feel. I know too well how incredibly rugged that part of Kauai is and how dangerous hiking on those cliffs can be. And I was equally amazed and heartbroken by what I was reading about this family. And that was only the first 20 or so pages.

The books is like that though. You'll be amazed at the tenacity of the exiles and their willingness to push on and eke out any existence they could, but you'll be tremendously saddened as well. And, I expect, shocked and ashamed of this dark little nugget in American history. And it didn't end until 1969.

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