Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Kira-Kira

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Kira-Kira

by Cynthia Kadohata

Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2004, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2007, 272 pages

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Cynthia Kadohata was born in Chicago in 1956. When she was very young her family moved to Georgia where her father found a job as a chicken sexer, like Katie's father in Kira-Kira.  Then when she was about two, her father found a chicken-sexing job in Arkansas, where they lived until she was almost nine. 

She has a BA in journalism from the University of Southern California and 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 with her son Sammy, who she adopted from Kazakhstan in 2004, and Skika Kojika, her purebred Doberman.

Her mother and grandmother were born in Southern California. The family moved to Hawaii in the 1930s. Her mother supported the family as a waitress in Hawaii before moving to Chicago. They spent the war years in Hawaii, where people of Japanese ancestry were not interned.

Her 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. Her paternal grandfather was killed in a tractor accident when her father was a little boy. Her 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."

When war broke out her father and his family were interned in the Poston camp on the Colorado River Indian Reservation in the Sonoran desert. One source claims the thermometer in 1942 hit more than 140 degrees in the Poston area. Her follow up novel to Kira-Kira, Weedflower, involves a friendship between a young Japanese American girl living in the internment camp and a young Mohave boy living on the reservation. 

Her father was drafted out of the camp and assigned to the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Service. He had three brothers who he'd never met that lived in Japan. Two of them were killed during the war; he met the third when he served in Japan for MIS.

More about Cynthia Kadohata, including a bibliography.

This article is from the January 4, 2007 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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