Cynthia Kadohata has been writing since 1982. When she was 25 and completely directionless, she
took a Greyhound bus trip up the West Coast, and then down through the South and
Southwest. She met people she never would have met otherwise. It was during that
bus trip, which lasted a month, that she rediscovered in the landscape the magic
she'd known as a child. Though she had never considered writing fiction before,
the next year she decided to begin. She sent one story out every month, and
about forty-eight stories later, The New Yorker took one. She now lives
In her own words.....
Family Background: My father's parents married in Japan and immigrated
in the early 1920s to the United States, where they became tenant farmers near
Costa Mesa, California. My paternal grandfather was killed in a tractor accident
when my father was a little boy. My father helped pick celery on the farm and
did very little schoolwork. Today he says, "When I was fifteen I had about a
fourth grade education." Two of my uncles on my father's side died fighting for
Japan in World War II. My father never met them. Meanwhile my father served with
the U.S. Military Intelligence Service. He met my third paternal uncle when he
(my father) was stationed in Japan after the war.
My mother and her mother were born in Southern California. The family moved to
Hawaii in the 1930s. My maternal grandfather, who was a graphic artist, was an
orphan and nobody knows where he came from. He drowned off the coast of Hawaii
when my mother was seven. My mother says his last words to her were, "Be good."
Her mother supported the family as a waitress in Hawaii before moving to
Chicago. I have six aunts and uncles on my mother's side. My youngest uncle is
just a year older than me!
I was born in Chicago in 1956. We moved to Georgia, where my father found a job
as a chicken sexer. Then when I was about two, he found a chicken-sexing job in
Arkansas, where we lived until I was almost nine.
My sister lived in Asia for twenty years but now lives in Boston. My brother
lives nearby me in the Los Angeles area. My sister and I were born in Chicago,
my brother in Arkansas.
Education: BA in journalism from the University of Southern California.
First story I ever wrote: I wrote a story about a planet that was
inhabited entirely by ducks that had just one leg apiece. I called this story
The One-Legged Ducks. I thought it was brilliant. I sent the story to the
Atlantic, which is a very hoity-toity magazine where they publish some of the
best short stories in the country. This became my first rejection as a writer!
The Floating World (adult 1989): A Japanese-American family
drift apprehensively through a serious of menial jobs in the 1950s.
In the Heart of the Valley of Love (adult 1992): Francie
seaarches for love and meaning in a 21st century Los Angeles dominated by
riots and oppressive, authoritarian government.
The Glass Mountains (adult, 1996): War approaches the peaceful
village of Bakshami. Mariska risks everything she has in order to search for
her parents who left to negotiate and find peace.
Kira-Kira (6th grade up, 2004): The Japanese-American Takeshima
family moves from Iowa to Georgia in the 1950s.
Weedflower (5th grade up, 2006): A Japanese family are interred
in WWII. Culled from Kadohata's family memories.
Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam (5th grade up, Jan 2007).
An adventure novel set in Vietnam partially seen through the eyes of a
German Shepherd, one of the dogs that are said to have saved about 10,000
lives during the war.
Outside Beauty (2008)
A Million Shades of Gray (2010)
This biography was last updated on 06/19/2011.
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