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James Unabia, Jamie Michelle Kahaonapuaweheikamalie Gruenwald, & family

A photoessay on multiethnic families in Hawaii, plus their thoughts on raising families in an increasingly diverse environment.

multiethnic families FLUX hawaii

James Unabia & Jamie Michelle Kahaonapuaweheikamalie Gruenwald
Ethnicity of mom: Hawaiian, Portuguese, English, German, Irish
Ethnicity of dad: Filipino, English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Jewish, German, Native American
Children: Naia (2 years and 4 months), and one on the way
Jamie: “Our varied ethnic backgrounds make our lives interesting and rich. We are blessed to have personal exposure to a diverse set of cultural practices, traditions, foods, and the arts. It enables us to create our own unique family culture, while having something in common with a lot of other individuals. We are part of present Hawaiian culture, which is such a great blend of ethnicities. One of the most important values we want to pass on to our children is malama ‘āina (to care for the land). Our ancestors’ knowledge of plants, farming, fishing, and medicine is a gift.”


Brittney Valverde & Evan Valiere
Ethnicity of mom: Filipino, Costa Rican
Ethnicity of dad: Italian, Irish, German, French, English, Sioux Indian
Child: Jaya Moon (13 months)
Brittney: “Thinking about lineage is fascinating. We are all a collaboration of a deep history manifested in each of us. We’ve become pretty Americanized and unfortunately don’t have any specific traditions to carry on, but creating new ones and digging into our lineage for ideas will be fun.”


Tania Leyva & Jason Washington
Ethnicity of mom:  El Salvadoran, Nicaraguan
Ethnicity of dad: Black
Children: Sonia (14), Jada (12), Chasity (11), Mariah (6), Kellen (18 months)
Tania: “Sometimes, as parents, our foundations for teaching our children are the same, however, we may not understand one another’s methods. As we teach our children, we have to learn how to communicate with and to one another, and that’s not always easy. The thing I enjoy most is the variety of food! I especially love it when my husband cooks his Southern meals, and he loves when I cook my Hispanic dishes—the kids just enjoy it all! Most importantly though, we know our children will learn different walks of life that will help prepare them to be successful in a multicultural world that awaits them outside our home.”

multiethnic families FLUX hawaii

Mark & Linh Owen
Ethnicity of mom: Vietnamese
Ethnicity of dad: English, German, Irish
Children: Sophia (8), Zoe (4)
Linh: “The best part of having a multiethnic family is having the best of both worlds. We do twice the celebrations, so twice the fun! The one practice that I really impress on my kids is the importance of revering your ancestors. On the anniversary of my dad’s passing, we always do a cúng, which is a ceremony where there is food and incense and praying. I teach them the right way to pray to be thankful for our year’s worth of blessings. It’s a spiritual connection to those that have passed on, and I would hope that one day, they would do the same for me and Mark to keep us in their thoughts.”

multiethnic families FLUX hawaii

Blaine Tolentino & Leah Caldeira
(Biological dad: Ha‘a Solomon)
Ethnicity of biological and legal mom: Hawaiian, Portuguese, Chinese
Ethnicity of legal mom: Hawaiian, English, French, Spanish, Filipino, Portuguese, Italian, Scottish
Ethnicity of biological dad: Hawaiian, Visayan, Irish, Scottish, Choctaw
Child: Graham (10 months)
Blaine: “Books, notes, conversations, memories, mele, lists, sketches, rumors—the interests we share provide a strong connection amongst us. The tone in which things like our socioeconomics, our aptitude, our sloth, our childhoods, and our aspirations are expressed can be traced to ethnicity, but what makes us similar demands the best parts of all of our different backgrounds. Though the marriage between Leah and I forms a legal protection that any couple would desire to have for their child, Ha‘a’s willingness to expose Graham to those things about him that we so loved and valued to begin with is a situation that requires little navigation because of the trust and respect we share. We are living rather comfortably in our agreement, which we do not take for granted. It often comes to mind, though, that the Hawaiians we all share as progenitors were known to use such happenstance to create a child whose sum of excellence would be composed of three great lines instead of the classic two.”

multiethnic families FLUX hawaii

Brandon & Hannah Tory
Ethnicity of mom: Hawaiian, Filipino, Portuguese, Swedish, German, Norwegian
Ethnicity of dad: Puerto Rican, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Chamorro, Spanish
Children: Noah (14), Naya (11), Nelia (7), Nalu (19 months)

Hannah: “I love learning to cook all the foods my husband likes that his mom cooked for him as a kid. For my kids, I love that they live in Hawai‘i where race really isn’t an issue. We are surrounded by so many different ethnicities here that they get to learn a little bit of each of their own ethnicities. Though each of our families have different ways of living, our children know that they are loved by both sides, and that’s all that matters to us.”

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