Hawaii, 1937 explores America's imperial relationship with two of its territories, the Philippines and Hawaii, through the novel's protagonist, Marcelo Medina. Readers first encounter Marcelo during a cane cutter strike on a sugar plantation in Puunene, Maui in April 1937. Through Marcelo readers meet the sakadas, contract laborers from the Philippine provinces who were largely young, single, and illiterate. As the strike leaves him homeless, readers follow Marcelo to Honolulu, the capital of the Territory of Hawaii, where he reluctantly gets involved with the burgeoning labor movement and, to complicate matters, a sugar heiress. The labor leaders face a monumental task: to seek justice among the same American corporations that ousted the Queen of Hawaii in 1891 and overthrew the monarchy that existed since King Kamehemeha I. Throughout his journey in Hawaii, Marcelo remains mysterious. Though the color of his skin limits him to certain types of work, his verbal acumen in English far exceeds his countrymen and other laborers in the islands. Although the sugar heiress, Eliza Baldwin, fishes around for his memories of the old country, Marcelo remains silent about his past. It is not until the narrative flashes back five years in the novel's second section that readers begin to understand why a man like Marcelo would become a sakada. The Commonwealth of the Philippines, in this depiction based in the early 1930s, is marked by a colonial ambivalence. Marcelo's parents had come of age when the country announced its freedom from Spain before it was quickly snatched up by America, along with former Spanish colonies Cuba and Puerto Rico in 1898. Marcelo was among the first generation of Filipinos to be educated in the American school system, which, according to the Filipino National Artist in Literature Nick Joaquin, was the sole reason that Filipinos began to look at their occupiers as liberators. In Marcelo's Manila, tensions are ripe: Filipinos are fashioning themselves as Americans, talk of revolution still lingers and provincianos dream of Hawaii, where they are promised they can "pick up money" and return to their families as rich men. In these exciting times, each living generation has no precedent. Marcelo finds contradictions in each facet of his life, where there is love, and, of course, tragedy. The relationship of these two territories has not been explored in any major work of fiction known to the author. The closest would be Carlos Bulosan's 1946 memoir, America is in the Heart, which focuses on the Filipino farm laborers in the mainland U.S. Thus, this work -- in addition to its artistic goals -- aims to elucidate, in human terms, the toll of the tens of thousands of Filipino men and their families who came to work in Hawaii's sugar and pineapple plantations. It also hopes to illustrate, in a small way, the complexity of being Filipino -- both in the Philippines and in the United States.