Lost in the darkness of his father’s movie theater, Victor Kobayashi’s childhood was filled with the flickering images of fearless samurai, wild cowboys and a bigger world beyond his small plantation town. Born in lower Pä‘ia, Maui, Kobayashi would grow up in a largely Native Hawaiian community that was also filled with working-class Haole, Filipinos, Puerto Ricans, Japanese and Chinese. Across the street from his boyhood home was the Mantokuji Soto Zen Buddhist temple, where magnificent summer bon dances attracted hundreds of celebrants of all races. Kobayashi’s grandparents, who spoke fluent Hawaiian at home, had immigrated to Hawai‘i during the reign of Queen Lili‘uokalani to work on the plantation.

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