Julia Flynn Siler

Mission Memorial Auditorium
Saturday, May 5, 12:00 pm
Award-winning Wall Street Journal writer Julia Flynn Siler will present her best-seller, Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America’s First Imperial Adventure, the first major biography of Queen Lili‘uokalani. Puakea Nogelmeier, co-founder of the Awaiaulu: Hawaiian Literature Project, will introduce Siler and the book. Ka’ala Carmack, Siler’s friend and renowned musician, singer, and award-winning composer will accompany her with selections from the Queen’s Songbook on his ‘ukulele.

Title of latest book: Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America’s First Imperial Adventure

Genre: History; biography; memoir
Grove/Atlantic Inc.; January 3, 2012
Hardcover; $30.00; 480 pages; contains photos
[Not yet available in paperback]
Kindle version; $9.99
Nook version; $16.08

The book: Around 200 A.D., intrepid Polynesians paddled thousands of miles across the Pacific and arrived at an undisturbed archipelago. For centuries, their descendants lived with almost no contact from the Western world but in 1778 their profound isolation was shattered with the arrival of Captain Cook. Deftly weaving together a memorable cast of characters, Lost Kingdom brings to life the ensuing clash between the vulnerable Polynesian people and the relentlessly expanding capitalist powers. Portraits of royalty, rogues, sugar barons, and missionaries combine into a sweeping tale of the Hawaiian kingdom’s rise and fall.

At the center of the story is Lili‘uokalani, the last queen of Hawaii. Born in 1838, she lived through the nearly complete economic transformation of the islands. Lucrative sugar plantations owned almost exclusively by white planters, dubbed the “Sugar Kings,” gradually subsumed the majority of the land. Hawaii became a prize in the contest between America, Britain, and France, each of whom were seeking to expand their military and commercial influence in the Pacific.

Lost Kingdom is the tragic story of Lili‘uokalani’s family and their fortunes. The monarchy had become a figurehead, victim to manipulation from the wealthy sugar-plantation owners. Upon ascending to the throne, Lili‘uokalani was determined to enact a constitution reinstating the monarchy’s power but she was outmaneuvered and, in January 1893, U.S. Marines from the USS Boston marched through the streets of Honolulu to the palace. The annexation of Hawaii had begun, ushering in a new century of American imperialism.


“Siler rehearses the dark imperial history of how Americans first arrived in the islands, how they rose in power and how they deposed the queen and took everything… This is mostly the story of white entrepreneurs and missionaries who came and conquered… A well-rendered narrative of paradise and imperialism.”

Kirkus Review

“Siler… skillfully weaves the tangled threads of this story into a satisfying tapestry about the late 19th-century death of a small nation [with]… sympathetic detail.”

Publisher’s Weekly

“The takeover of Hawaii is a disturbing and dramatic story, deftly captured by Julia Flynn Siler … [S]he vividly depicts a cast of characters driven by greed, desperation, and miscalculation… How the queen lost her kingdom says as much about America and its new era of overseas expansion as it does about Hawaii.”

— T.J. Stiles, author of The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelious Vanderbilt, winner of the Pulitzer Price and National Book Award

“Julia Flynn Siler’s Lost Hawaii is a riveting saga about Big Sugar flexing its imperialist muscle… It’s impossible not to be impressed with the breadth of Siler’s fine scholarship. A real gem of a book.”

— Douglas Brinkley, author of The Quiet World: Saving Alaskas Wilderness Kingdom 1879-1960

“Too many Americans forget… our “island paradise” was acquired via a cynical, imperious land grab… By the 1890s, American businessmen, especially the “sugar kings,” dominated the Hawaiian economy… [C]ombined with the flowering of American naval ambitions, Hawaii’s status as an independent kingdom was doomed. Siler’s narrative concentrates on the efforts of Queen Lili’okalani to stave off American annexation. The missionary-educated [queen’s] efforts to straddle both the modern and traditional Hawaiian worlds proved futile. This is a well-written, fast-moving saga.”


Julia Flynn Siler is an award-winning journalist. Her book, The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty was a New York Times bestseller. She has written for Business Week and The New York Times, and is now a contributing writer for The Wall Street Journal in San Francisco. She lives in Northern California with her husband and sons.

Check out the book trailer for Lost Kingdom

Siler’s other books:

The House of Mondavi; Gotham; May 1, 2008


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