Hāmākua Hero: A True Plantation Story

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ISBN: 9781573063210

In 1885, tens of thousands of men and women left behind family, friends, and their homeland for these islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to work on the sugar plantations of Hawai‘i. Filled with hopes and dreams, they were drawn to this tropical paradise to seek their fortunes.

This graphic novel, Hāmākua Hero: A True Plantation Story brings the Japanese-Hawai‘i immigrant experience to life through one man’s hardships, success, injustice and tragedy, shedding light on an intriguing but little known piece of Hawai‘i’s past. Follow Katsu Goto as he takes you on his journey . . . back to a time when sugar was king along the Hāmākua coast of Hawaiʻi Island.

Watch documentary film previews about Katsu Goto at http://katsugotomovie.org. With footage filmed in Hawai‘i and Japan, the documentary will bring to life the true story of Japanese immigrant and martyr Katsu Goto through intimate interviews with his descendants and immigration historians.


Author Patsy Y. Iwasaki, Ph.D., was born and raised on Kaua‘i surrounded by sugar cane. Her grandparents immigrated to Hawai‘i from Hiroshima Prefecture and worked on the Lihue Sugar Plantation. She received a research grant from the Goto of Hiroshima Foundation which inspired her to create the graphic novel Hāmākua Hero: A True Plantation Story. Dr. Iwasaki is currently an English Department faculty member at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and also has an M.Ed. in education. Her research interests and teaching practices include instructional design and development, graphic novel/manga and migration narratives, documentary film, English studies, diversity, place and community-based, culturally relevant resources in education, and cross cultural exchange and collaboration. She has conducted extensive research activities, published articles, and given presentations in the United States, Asia and Europe in these areas.

Illustrator Berido is a freelance illustrator who has developed graphics for various Big Island publications including the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo newspaper Ke Kalahea, the Big Island Weekly and Kanilehua (UH Hilo’s art and literary magazine). He has painted book covers for Making Waves: An Anthology of TransPacific Writing and Kii Kilakila: Writing from the Big Island from the UH Hilo Press. Berido graduated with a Bachelor’s in art from UH Hilo in 2010 and received a degree in Digital Media Arts from Hawai‘i Community College in 2011. An avid fisherman, he is currently head of the fishing department at the J. Hara Store in Kurtistown on Hawai‘i island. He creates gyotaku fish prints to record customers’ prized catches. 


paperback   |   80 pages   |   7" x 10"   |   B&W   |   graphic novel



Honolulu Magazine named Hāmākua Hero as an "Essential Hawaiʻi Book" in the Immigration Section. Essential Hawai'i Books

“ ... a smart piece of immigrant history.”

— Publisher's Weekly

Hamakua Hero does a great job of drawing you in through the graphic novel medium and teaching you about history.”

— read the full review from HAWAII BOOK BLOG here

“Bess Press recently introduced the first historic graphic novel depicting the life and tragic murder of Katsu Goto, a Japanese immigrant and plantation worker who rose to prominence as a merchant on the Big Island... “


“Bess Press is moving into manga in a big way, and that’s an exciting development for this major Honolulu publisher... “