How to pronounce Cynthia Kadohata: ca-do-HAR-ta
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!
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Other than Kira-Kira, what other books have you published?
The Floating World, In the Heart of the Valley of Love, and The Glass Mountains. Although Kira-Kira is my first novel written specifically for young readers, all three of my previous novels feature young main characters. For my adult writing, I've received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation. I also received a Chesterfield Writer's Film Project screenwriting fellowship.
Where were your parents interned during WWII?
My father and his family were interned in the Poston camp on the Colorado River Indian Reservation in the Sonoran desert. One source claims he thermometer in 1942 hit more than 140 degrees in the Poston area. Weedflower, my next novel for Atheneum, involves a friendship between a young Japanese American girl living in the internment camp and a young Mohave boy living on the reservation.
My father was drafted out of the camp and assigned to the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Service. Three full brothers whom he'd never met lived in Japan. Two of them were killed during the war. He met the third when ...
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