Lurline McGregor, a local screenwriter and film producer, can now add another title to her list of credits: award-winning author. McGregor spent two years writing her 2008 novel Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me; this year, it won the American Indian Youth Literature Award for Best Young Adult Book.
“It’s very exciting,” says McGregor, who traveled to Washington, D.C., in June to accept the award from the American Indian Library Association (AILA). She’s the first Native Hawaiian to win an AILA award. “This is my first attempt at writing fiction,” she says. “I feel very grateful and blessed for everything that’s happened.”
In the novel, a Hawaii-born anthropologist is torn between a glittering career on the Mainland and her Hawaiian ancestral responsibilities—in particular, the repatriation of a cultural artifact. The dilemma was inspired by the real-life controversy earlier this decade in which the group Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawaii Nei reburied artifacts loaned to it by the Bishop Museum.
McGregor was also inspired by how the New Zealand-themed movie Whale Rider authentically portrays Maori culture, while remaining a universal story that resonates with a wide audience. In the same way, she wanted to write a story about her own Hawaiian culture and was concerned about it being accurate.
“I wrote [Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me] to be true to the culture, to tell a fictional story based in our history, beginning at a time when humans and gods moved freely among each other,” she says. “I’m not glamorizing or stereotyping or otherwise manipulating information about cultural practices or the community for the sake of entertaining the reader.”
Her dedication to cultural accuracy has also paid off in another way: Since the spring of 2009, Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me has been used in school curricula, both locally and on the Mainland, at the high school and college level. “It shows there is a demand, at least in curriculum, for local and Hawaiian literature,” she says.
McGregor is currently working on a prequel to her book. “It’s a whole different journey and it’s been very rewarding doing the research,” she says.
Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me is available at major bookstores and at kamehamehapublishing.org.