Gayle K. Sato
Kathleen Tyau, of Chinese and Hawaiian descent, was born in California and grew up in Waikiki and Pearl City, Oahu. She left Hawaii in 1965 to attend Lewis and Clark College in Oregon, and has lived there ever since. After college, Tyau married and found work as a hand weaver, the first of several and varied occupations that have included legal secretary, freelance journalist, and creative writing instructor at Pacific University. She and husband Paul Drews live on a fifty-two-acre tree farm outside Portland.
Tyau has published two book-length works of fiction, A Little Too Much Is Enough (1995) and Makai (1999), which were both well received. A Little Too Much Is Enough (henceforth called ALTMIE) was chosen as the 1996 Best Book of the Year by the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association and was also a finalist that year for the Oregon Book Award in fiction as well as the Barnes and Noble Best New Writers Award. Makai was a finalist for the 2000 Oregon Book Award.
Certain aspects of Tyau's personal history shape her fiction in understated yet significant ways. Tyau's knowledge of hand weaving, her passion for bluegrass music, and experience at St. Andrew's Priory, a private Catholic girls' school in Honolulu, furnish important details for setting and character in Makai. Tyau's near drowning at age five is reworked into the episode “Ocean Is for Drowning” from ALTMIE as well as the narrator's fear of water in Makai, a decisive factor in both works' complex representation of Hawaii. Tyau's part-Hawaiian father, born on Niihau, has probably influenced the creation of a Chinese-Hawaiian father in ALTMIE who figures in two of the book's most striking representations of indigenous culture—chapters dealing with hula,