Cynthia Kadohata biography

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Cynthia Kadohata

Cynthia Kadohata

How to pronounce Cynthia Kadohata: ca-do-HAR-ta

Cynthia Kadohata Biography

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 California.

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!


Bibliography

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)

The Thing About Luck (Atheneum, 2013), illustrated by Julia Kuo

Electricity (Atheneum, 2014)

Half a World Away (Atheneum, 2014)

Cynthia Kadohata's website

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Interview

Cynthia Kadohata discusses her life and her books, in particular Kira-Kira, her first book for children, which won the 2005 Newbery Award.

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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Books by this Author

Books by Cynthia Kadohata at BookBrowse
The Thing About Luck jacket Outside Beauty jacket Kira-Kira jacket
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Readalikes

All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Cynthia Kadohata but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose readalikes

  • Patricia Reilly Giff

    Patricia Reilly Giff

    As a reading teacher for 20 years, the educational consultant for Dell Yearling and Young Yearling books, an adviser and instructor to aspiring writers, and the author of more than 60 books for children, Patricia ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Kira-Kira

    Try:
    The House of Tailors
    by Patricia Reilly Giff

  • Kelly Loy Gilbert

    Kelly Loy Gilbert

    Kelly Loy Gilbert believes deeply in the power of stories to illuminate a shared humanity and give voice to complex, broken people. She is the author of Conviction, a William C. Morris Award finalist, and lives in the SF Bay ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Kira-Kira

    Try:
    Picture Us In The Light
    by Kelly Loy Gilbert

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