It’s the stuff of publishers’ dreams–and nightmares. Grand Central was thrilled when The Three-Year Swim Club by Julie Checkoway was chosen as a buzz book at BookExpo America. To keep the buzz going, the publisher scheduled a series of bookseller pre-pub dinners. Then, last week, as Jimmy Franco, Grand Central’s publicity director, landed in San Francisco to host an event, his phone was filled with a flurry of e-mails: Checkoway had suffered a concussion and could not travel.
Not all local heroes surf; some, like new Hawai‘i Waterman Hall of Fame inductee Soichi Sakamoto, coach swimmers in plantation irrigation ditches. His story is cresting thanks to Julie Checkoway’s The Three-Year Swim Club: The Untold Story of Maui’s Sugar Ditch Kids and Their Quest for Olympic Glory (October, Grand Central Publishing, $30). Although those who saw Lee Tonouchi’s play about Sakamoto in 2011 may quibble at the “untold” part, Checkoway’s work is being compared to No. 1 bestsellers Unbroken and The Boys in the Boat. She’s a good and graceful writer and so there’s hope, with each of these books poised for a breakthrough, that mainstream Mainland America may finally see Hawai‘i as more than a place for hackneyed Hollywood fantasies.
Julie Checkoway talked about her book, The Three-Year Swim Club: The Untold Story of Maui’s Sugar Ditch Kids and Their Quest for Olympic Glory. She was interviewed at BookExpo America, the publishing industry’s annual trade show. Watch the video.