Born to a Japanese American family, Cynthia Kadohata (kah-doh-hah-tah) spent her childhood in Georgia, Michigan, Arkansas, and Chicago. Her family had to move often because her father, like other Japanese Americans, faced hardships in obtaining work during and after World War II. Kadohata’s parents divorced when she was nine, and at the age of fifteen Kadohata moved to Los Angeles, where she attended Hollywood High School. She soon dropped out, but after she turned eighteen she attended Los Angeles City College and later transferred to the University of Southern California, where she earned a degree in journalism.
In 1977, Kadohata was involved in a serious automobile accident, which damaged her right arm. She moved to Boston to stay with her sister while recuperating. During this period, she read extensively and discovered the power of fiction. Convinced that fiction could present the truth more effectively than journalistic writing, she decided to write stories.
After several failed attempts at getting her work published, Kadohata was encouraged when in 1986 The New Yorker accepted two of her short stories, “Charlie O” and “Jack’s Girl.” Both stories were later incorporated in her first novel, The Floating World.
Kadohata briefly attended a creative writing program at the University of Pittsburgh, and she also enrolled at Columbia University but dropped out again, convinced that being on the road and observing real people provided the best training for a writer. She moved back to Los Angeles and continued writing.
In 1988 Kadohata’s first novel was accepted for publication. The Floating World is a coming-of-age novel about Olivia, a second-generation American of Japanese origin. Olivia, who narrates her story, impresses the readers with her powers of perception and keen observation. She notices...
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