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Cynthia Kadohata


Event Location

, CA

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Map of Cynthia Kadohata,

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 Intellgence 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!

Background specific to Kira-Kira:  Here’s something I shouldn’t admit: One absolutely true fact from the book is that even when I was a small girl I often ate five tacos in one meal.  My record was six.  My family was kind of impressed and kind of horrified.  It made them wonder what would become of me when I grew up.  Today I eat three tacos at a sitting.

I lived in Georgia and Arkansas and spoke with such a heavy Southern accent that when I moved up north nobody could understand a word I said.  My teacher threatened to put me in speech therapy if I didn't lose my accent.  My sister’s name is Kim and I called her Kee-uhm.  My nickname was Nee because that was the way my little brother pronounced Cindy.

Hobbies: I’m a road hawg!  I love to travel around this amazing country.  The beautiful landscape, the highways – I love it.  Traveling, seeing the country, is one of the things from which I derive my “writing energy.”  Just thinking about the American landscape and focusing on it puts me in touch with what I think of as the real, essential me.  I have to be in touch with this real, essential me whenever I sit down to write.  


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