James Houston Biography
James D. Houston is the author of eight novels, including Bird of Another
Heaven and Snow Mountain Passage. His non-fiction works include
Farewell to Manzanar, co-authored with his
wife, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston - a true account of her family's experience during
and after the World War Two internment, it is in a 67th printing from Bantam
Books and a standard work in schools and colleges across the country.
He was born in San Francisco, where his parents settled after migrating west
from Texas during the Depression of the l930s. At San Jose State College he
studied drama and met Jeanne, whose parents had reached California from the
opposite direction, crossing the ocean from Japan. In his writings, as in his
personal life, these histories have intermingled. From his coastal vantage
point, he has been able to look both ways, eastward across the continent, and
farther west, toward the shores and islands of the Asia/Pacific region.
Jim and Jeanne were married in Honolulu in 1957, and from there moved to
England while he served for three years as Information Officer with a Tactical
Fighter-Bomber Wing. In 1959 his first published story appeared in the London
literary journal, Gemini. Another early effort won that year's U.S. Air Force
Short Story Contest.
After traveling extensively in Europe - to Belgium, France, Germany, Spain,
Scotland, Scandinavia, and the Soviet Union - he returned home to pursue an M.A.
in American Literature at Stanford. He studied with Wallace Stegner, critic
Irving Howe, editor Malcolm Cowley, and the Irish short story master, Frank
O'Connor. Four years later he returned to Stanford as a Stegner Writing Fellow.
While there he sold his first novel and completed his second,
Gig, which won the Joseph Henry Jackson Award for Fiction.
Since 1962 he and Jeanne have lived in Santa Cruz, within view of Monterey
Bay, where they raised their three children, Corinne, Joshua and Gabrielle. For
several years he made his living as a musician, teaching classical and folk
guitar, and playing acoustic bass in a piano bar and in a bluegrass band. In
l969, after teaching for a year at Stanford, he began teaching writing part-time
at the University of California's Santa Cruz campus, an arrangement that
continued for over twenty years, interspersed with visits to such campuses as
the University of Hawai'i, the University of Oregon, the University of Michigan,
and George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. In spring 2006 he returned to
his alma mater, now San Jose State University, to hold the prestigious Lurie
Chair, as Distinguished Visiting Professor in Creative Writing.
A frequent visitor to Hawai'i, he has traveled widely in the Pacific Basin. In 1993 he was invited to Okinawa to lecture at the University of the Ryukyus. In 1998 he served as a Smithsonian Lecturer for the Cunard Lines' South
Pacific Cruise to the Marquesas, Fakarava, Tahiti, Tonga and Fiji. His often
anthologized stories and essays have appeared in such publications as The New
York Times, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, GQ and Ploughshares.
He died in April 2009 at his home in Santa Cruz, California. The cause was complications of lymphoma, said his wife, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston. He was 75.
- Between Battles (1968)
- Gig (1969)
- A Native Son of the Golden West (1971)
- Gasoline (1980)
- Love Life (1985)
- Continental Drift (1996)
- The Last Paradise (1998)
- Snow Mountain Passage (2001)
- Bird of Another Heaven (2007)
- Farewell to Manzanar, with Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
- The Literature of California
- Surfing: A History of the Ancient Sport of Hawaii (1966)
- Californians: Searching for the Golden State (1982)
- The Men in My Life: and Other More or less True Recollections of
- In the Ring of Fire: A Pacific Basin Journey (1997)
- Hawaiian Son: The Life and Music of Eddie Kamae (2004)
This biography was last updated on 04/20/2009.
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