Cynthia Kadohata was born on July 2, 1956, in Chicago. Her parents’ experience provided a significant part of the background for her first and fourth novels, both set in Japanese American families at the time of Kadohata’s youth. Her father’s family had emigrated from Japan to Southern California in the 1920’s, working as tenant farmers. Kadohata’s father moved to Chicago after losing his father in a farming accident, internment in an American prison camp after Pearl Harbor, and service in the United States Army military intelligence service both at home and in Japan after World War II.
Kadohata’s mother and maternal grandmother were born in Southern California before moving to Hawaii in the 1930’s, where her maternal grandfather drowned while her mother was still a child. A strong grandmother figures prominently in her first novel, like her maternal grandmother who supported her mother and her other children as a waitress in Hawaii before moving to Chicago. There, Kadohata’s parents met and married. Her older sister was born in Chicago as well.
The Kadohatas moved to Springdale, Arkansas, where her father worked as a chicken sexer, determining the gender of newborn chickens, like many adult characters in Kadohata’s first and fourth novel. Her brother was born in Arkansas.
Next, the family moved to Tifton, Georgia, and on to Michigan, but in 1965, her parents divorced and Kadohata moved with her mother and siblings back to Chicago, before moving to Los Angeles in 1971. Dropping out of Hollywood High School over a dispute of transfer grades from Chicago, Kadohata held menial jobs but entered Los Angeles City College in 1974. Soon, she transferred to the University of Southern California and graduated with a B.A. in journalism in 1977.
Seriously injured in a car accident in 1977, Kadohata...
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