UH Hilo professor's book chronicles real-life tragedy

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 974-7642
Director, Media Relations, University Relations
Posted: Mar 29, 2011

"Big Happiness: The Life and Death of a Modern Hawaiian Warrior" by Dr. Mark Panek, associate professor of English at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, chronicles the triumphs and tragedies of Percy Kipapa, a Hawaii-born professional sumo wrestler who was stabbed to death on Oʻahu in 2005 at age 31.

Writer and playwright Victoria Kneubehl said that Big Happiness “speaks to the consequences of the destruction of Hawai‘i's rural neighborhoods, unchecked development, the ice epidemic, the failures of government, sumo, intricate family and neighbor relationships, and more.”

“The story of Percy Kipapa is especially poignant because professional sumo gave him a unique opportunity to transcend Hawaiʻi’s culture of colonialism, racism, poverty, and drug addiction, which in the end all brought him down anyway,” said Rev. Bob Nakata, a former Hawai‘i state senator.

Panek, a friend of Kipapa’s who met him in Japan, is also the author of a biography of Hawaiʻi-born sumo grand champion Chad “Akebono” Rowan.

"Big Happiness: The Life and Death of a Modern Hawaiian Warrior" is published by University of Hawai‘i Press and is available from local bookstores and Amazon.com.