Lois-Ann Yamanaka

Lois-Ann Yamanaka (born September 7, 1961) is an American poet and novelist from Hawaiʻi. Many of her literary works are written in Hawaiian Pidgin, and some of her writing has dealt with controversial ethnic issues. In particular, her works confront themes of Asian American families and the local culture of Hawaiʻi.

Lois-Ann Yamanaka
BornSeptember 7, 1961
Ho'olehua, Hawaii, U.S.
Notable worksBlu's Hanging, Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers


Early years

Lois-Ann Yamanaka was born September 7, 1961 in Hoʻolehua on the island of Molokaʻi, Hawaiʻi. Yamanaka's parents, Harry and Jean Yamanaka, raised her and her four younger sisters in the sugarcane plantation town of Pahala on Hawaiʻi Island.

Both parents were school teachers, although her father later became a taxidermist. Following in her parents' footsteps, she followed a path into education: In 1983, she received a Bachelor’s Degree, and in 1987 her Master's Degree, both in Education at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.


She then went on to become an English and Language Arts resource teacher. Inspired by her own students' honesty demonstrated within poetry assignments, she began writing on her own.

She completed her first book, Saturday Night at the Pahala Theater, in 1993, which, was coined "'witty' and 'street-smart'" by Kiana Davenport in Women's Review of Books. The novel, "composed of four verse novellas narrated by working-class Hawaiian teenagers...explore[d] such subjects as ethnic identity, sexual awakening, drug use, and abusive relationships." Lawrence Chua, of the Voice Literary Supplement, wrote, "Her poetry is enabled by its elegant structure as much as its indolent diction. Saturday Night is not a lonely specimen of street life but a bold push at the borders of meaning and memory." Saturday Night at the Pahala Theater received several awards including the Pushcart Prize for poetry and later, the fiction award given by the Association for Asian American Studies.

In 1996, Yamanaka’s second book, Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers, again told in Pidgin, was a coming-of-age story made up of "a series of connected vignettes" that "examin[ed] larger issues of class and ethnicity". Lauren Belfer, of the New York Times Book Review, claimed the book to be "somewhat impenetrable" ... leaving "haunting images" in the minds of readers.

The next year, Yamanaka completed her third book, Blu’s Hanging 'which created even more of an uproar among Asian American critics. As the novel treated characters of both Filipino and Japanese American backgrounds within the Hawaiian landscape, she was given the Asian American Studies National Book Award in 1998, however, it was annulled almost immediately for its use of stereotypical language. Other known Asian American authors such as Amy Tan and Maxine Hong Kingston emerged in support of Yamanaka during the controversy. The work was deemed, "a well-wrought but painful work" by Anna Quan Leon in the Library Journal. In defending herself, Yamanaka spoke out, telling Newsweek reporter Donna Foote that 'the distinction between the narrator and the author is not being made'".

Following Blu's Hanging, she published Heads by Harry, which dealt with gay sexuality and gender identity issues. The book received mixed reviews. "To some extent, Yamanaka has replaced racism with sexism and homophobia, 'safer topics'", concluded Nation reviewer Mindy Pennybacker. However, Michael Porter, of the New York Times Book Review applauded Yamanaka's efforts, stating that "[she] delivers a precise look at this vibrant 'Japanese-American' culture yet still speaks to anyone who has experienced the joy, security and small humiliations of family life."

Name Me Nobody was her fourth book geared towards adolescents. In illustrating the difficulties of young "teen hood" and the surrounding superficialities, the "'vignettes of young girlhood praised for their vivid images and expert distillation of language", related a Horn Book reviewer, "Yamanaka provides young adult literature with a fresh and welcome voice "noteworthy for its complexity and richness'."

In 2004, Silent Years, a short film based on Yamanaka's screenplay was released. The story of a thirteen-year-old girl who finds herself caught between her abusive uncle and older boyfriend, it is based on two poems from her collection Saturday Night at the Pahala Theatre and has been described as "brutal."[1] The film was locally produced and directed by Honolulu native and University of Southern California film school graduate James Sereno.[1]

In 2006, Yamanaka explored a spiritual approach in the novel, Behold the Many, set on the island of Oahu. In the book, a young woman is haunted by ghosts which ends in what a Kirkus Reviews contributor called a "beautifully tragic" outcome.[2] Carol Haggas of Booklist wrote the book was a "richly atmospheric novel which paints a chillingly spectral portrait of souls tormented by love and guilt."[3]

An excerpt from Yamanaka's next work has been released. According to the April 2007 issue of Honolulu Magazine Yamanaka's upcoming novel has been given the working title of The Mother Mary Stories[1].


Yamanaka is married to John Inferrera; in between writing, they both teach. Together they have a son, John, Jr. and live in Honolulu, Hawaii. Lois-Ann also is co-owner of a writing school, Na`au.[4]

As an author

"Lois-Ann Yamanaka's fiction focuses on young, working-class Japanese-Americans from Hawaii who struggle with such typical issues of adolescence as sexual development and peer acceptance while coming to terms with their cultural identity as the descendants of Japanese immigrant laborers."

"Yamanaka once said,' My work involves bringing to the page the utter complexity, ferocious beauty and sometimes absurdity of our ethnic relationships here in the islands. The way we language about each other and with each other in 'talk story' communities resonates in me with every word I write. I know this because as my friend Lisa Asagi says, 'It's impossible to ban the sound of memory'."[4]


While Yamanaka believes that her characters "know the sound of their own voice," and admits to being highly inspired by her own experiences growing up amongst Hawaii life and culture, including the pidgin language, she also attributes much of her work to the other authors who have inspired and influenced her. In an interview, Yamanaka states what a huge influence reading William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury has had on her. In no way does Yamanaka compare her work to that of Faulkner, only that such works help keep her humble and rooted. She describes her experience as, "In the presence of this genius, I felt embarrassed."[5] Yamanaka also cites June Jordan, Ai, Thulani Davis, and Jessica Hagedorn as major inspirations in terms of their use of voice in poetry. In general, Yamanaka counts herself lucky to be in the same category as other female Asian American writers such as Maxine Hong Kingston and Amy Tan.[5]

List of works

Among her principal works are:

  • Saturday Night at the Pahala Theater, a book of poems written in Hawaiian Pidgin (1993)
  • Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers (1996)
  • Blu's Hanging (1997)
  • Heads by Harry (1998)
  • Name Me Nobody (2000)
  • Father of the Four Passages (2001)
  • The Heart's Language (2005)
  • Behold the Many (2006)


Other publications

  • Yamanaka, Lois-Ann. "This Man Is an Island." The New York Times 18 January 2009, Opinion sec.: WK14. Print.
  • Yamanaka, Lois-Ann. "Sunnyside Up." Chicago Review, Vol. 39, No. 3/4, A North Pacific Rim Reader (1993), pp. 175–178, https://www.jstor.org/stable/25305741

External links


  1. ^ a b Story of child abuse told in 'Silent Years' – The Honolulu Advertiser – Hawaii's Newspaper
  2. ^ "KIRKUS REVIEW: BEHOLD THE MANY". Kirkus. 7 Feb 2006. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  3. ^ "Yamanaka, Lois-Ann 1961–". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  4. ^ a b Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2009. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich. Gale, 2009. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC
  5. ^ a b Sarah Anne Johnson, "Lois-Ann Yamanaka: The Characters Know the Sound of Their Own Voice," Conversations with American Women Writers, Hanover: University Press of New England, 2004, 216
12th Lambda Literary Awards

The 12th Lambda Literary Awards were held in 2000 to honour works of LGBT literature published in 1999.

Asian American Literary Awards

The Asian American Literary Awards are a set of annual awards that have been presented by The Asian American Writers' Workshop since 1998. The awards include a set of honors for excellence in fiction, poetry and nonfiction, chosen by a panel of literary and academic judges; a Members' Choice Award, voted on by the Workshop's members from the list of that year's entries; and a Lifetime Achievement Award. To be eligible, a book must be written by someone of Asian descent living in the United States and published first in English; entries are actively solicited by the Workshop.

Asian American literature

Asian American literature is the body of literature produced in the United States by writers of Asian descent. Asian American literature became a category during the 1970s but didn't see a direct impact in viewership until later in the 1970s. Perhaps the earliest references to Asian American literature appeared with David Hsin-fu Wand's Asian American Heritage: An Anthology of Prose and Poetry, published in 1974. One of the earlier pieces of Asian American literature produced by Combined Asian Resources Project (CARP) was Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Asian-American Writers (1974). This anthology collected staples of long-forgotten Asian American literature and criticized the lack of visibility of this literature. This anthology brought to light the necessity of visibility and criticism of Asian American literature; with visibility came recognition of new literature. Elaine Kim's seminal book of criticism, Asian American Literature: An Introduction to the Writings and Their Social Context, was published in 1982 and was the first critical book on the topic.

Since then, the field of Asian American literature and of Asian American literary criticism has grown remarkably. Numerous authors produce literary and critical work used, but defining "Asian American literature" remains a troublesome task. Most critics who have written about Asian American literature implicitly or explicitly define it as being written by Asian Americans, and usually about Asian Americans. This definition poses a number of problems that are an ongoing source of discussion for Asian American literary critics: Who is an Asian American? Is "America" only the United States, or does it include the rest of the Americas? If an Asian American writes about characters who are not Asian American, is this Asian American literature? If someone who is not Asian American writes about Asian Americans, is this Asian American literature? The fluidity of ethnicity and race can play a major role in culture and identity.

Bamboo Ridge

Bamboo Ridge (in full Bamboo Ridge: Journal of Hawai'i Literature and Arts) is a Hawaii-based literary journal and nonprofit press. It was founded in 1978 by Eric Chock and Darrell H.Y. Lum to publish works by and for the people of Hawaii. In the United States, Bamboo Ridge is one of the longest-running small presses, and is one of the oldest in Hawaii. It was named after a popular fishing spot on Oahu. It currently publishes two volumes a year: a literary journal of poetry and fiction featuring work by both emerging and established writers and a book by a single author or an anthology focused on a special theme. Both the journal and book are available singly or by subscription.Lois-Ann Yamanaka, Lee Cataluna, Rodney Morales, Gary Pak, and Nora Okja Keller are among the writers Bamboo Ridge has published. Yamanaka in particular has credited some of her literary success to the press.

Blu's Hanging

Blu's Hanging is a 1997 coming-of-age novel by Lois-Ann Yamanaka. It follows the Ogata family after the death of their mother, as each family member struggles to come to terms with their grief. The story is told through Ivah, a smart-mouthed thirteen-year-old who is left as the oldest child to take care of her younger siblings, Blu and Maisie, while she struggles with her own grief, emerging sexuality, and awareness of the world. Similar to Yamanaka's other works, Blu's Hanging, encompasses the topics of racial politics and the diverse culture of Hawaii, as well as the coming of age of the main character amongst various sexual threats and questions.

Following its publication, it was awarded the literature prize by the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS), which was later revoked on the grounds that her portrayals of certain minorities were racist.

Eric Chock

Eric Chock is a Hawaiian poet, scholar and editor. He served as a professor of English and humanities at the University of Hawaii-West Oahu, and coordinated the state's "Poets in the Schools" program for more than twenty years.In 1978, he cofounded the literary journal Bamboo Ridge with Darrell H. Y. Lum to encourage the growth of a distinctly Hawaiian literary style. Authors whose works appeared in Bamboo Ridge included Gary Pak, Lois-Ann Yamanaka, Rodney Morales, Wing Tek Lum, and Cathy Song. Pak described the journal as "the primary literary force in Hawaii today", and it received the Hawaii Award for Literature in 1996 from the Hawaii Literary Arts Council. The success and influence of the Bamboo Ridge group of writers, among whom Chock himself was included, was later examined in detail by literary critic Rob Wilson in his study Reimagining the American Pacific.Chock has also edited several anthologies featuring Hawaiian writers, as well as Small Kid Time Hawaii and Haku Mele o Hawaii, two collections of children's poetry.He received the Elliot Cades Award for Literature in 1996.

Hawaiian Pidgin

Hawaiian Pidgin English (alternately Hawaiian Creole English or HCE, known locally as Pidgin) is an English-based creole language spoken in Hawaiʻi (L1: 600,000; L2: 400,000). Although English and Hawaiian are the co-official languages of the state of Hawaiʻi, Hawaiian Pidgin is spoken by many Hawaiʻi residents in everyday conversation and is often used in advertising targeted toward locals in Hawaiʻi. In the Hawaiian language, it is called ʻōlelo paʻi ʻai - "pounding-taro language".Despite its name, Hawaiian Pidgin is not a pidgin, but rather a full-fledged, nativized, and demographically stable creole language. It did, however, evolve from various real pidgins spoken as common languages between ethnic groups in Hawaiʻi.

Although it is not completely mutually intelligible with Standard American English, Hawaiian Pidgin retains the highest degree of mutual intelligibility with it when compared with other English-based creoles, such as Jamaican Patois, in part due to its relatively recent emergence.

Hawaiian literature

Hawaiian literature has its origins in Polynesian mythology. It was originally preserved and expanded solely through oral traditions, as the ancient Hawaiians never developed a writing system. Written literature in the Hawaiian language and literary works in other languages by authors resident in Hawaii did not appear until the nineteenth century, when the arrival of American missionaries introduced the English language, the Latin alphabet, and Western notions of composition to the kingdom.

The earliest compilations of traditional Hawaiian writing were made by John Papa ʻĪʻī, Samuel Kamakau, Kepelino Keauokalani, and David Malo. They were succeeded by King Kalākaua, Martha Beckwith, Abraham Fornander, and William Drake Westervelt, all of whom produced later collections retelling or adapting Hawaii's oral histories.

Other noted authors whose works feature Hawaiian settings and themes, or who were temporarily resident in Hawaii, include Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Jack London. Detective novelist Earl Derr Biggers is remembered chiefly for his books set in early twentieth century Honolulu, whose protagonist is Chinese-Hawaiian detective Charlie Chan.Hawaiian literature in the latter half of the twentieth century was characterized by both rapid growth and an increasing emphasis on realism, sometimes influenced by the Second Hawaiian Renaissance and the Hawaiian sovereignty movement.

Hilo High School

Hilo High School is a public, co-educational high school of the Hawaii State Department of Education, and serves grades nine through twelve. Established in 1906, its first class graduated in 1909. Hilo High School is near the Wailuku River in Hawaii County on the Big Island of Hawaii. The campus boasts the black marble terrazzo and gray gravel sculpture Matrix by Ken Shutt in the middle of its two patios in its courtyard. The school is situated at 556 Waianuenue Avenue on across the street from Hilo Intermediate School, one of its two feeder schools, the other being Kalanianaole Intermediate School. Hilo's symbol and mascot is the Viking and its school colors are blue and gold. Hilo High School celebrated its centennial during Homecoming of 2006. Hilo High School's crosstown rivals are the Warriors of Waiakea High School.

Kayo Hatta

Kayo Hatta (March 18, 1958 – July 20, 2005) was an Asian American filmmaker, writer, and community activist. She directed and co-wrote the independent dramatic feature-length film Picture Bride, which won the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award in 1995 for Best Dramatic Film.

Lannan Literary Awards

The Lannan Literary Awards are a series of awards and literary fellowships given out in various fields by the Lannan Foundation. Established in 1989, the awards are meant "to honor both established and emerging writers whose work is of exceptional quality", according to the foundation. The foundation's awards are lucrative relative to most awards in literature: the 2006 awards for poetry, fiction and nonfiction each came with $150,000, making them among the richest literary prizes in the world.

The awards reflect the philosophy governing the Lannan Foundation, a family foundation established by J. Patrick Lannan, Sr. in 1960. It describes itself as "dedicated to cultural freedom, diversity and creativity through projects which support exceptional contemporary artists and writers, as well as inspired Native activists in rural indigenous communities."Awards have been made to acclaimed and varied literary figures such as David Foster Wallace, William Gaddis, Lydia Davis, William H. Gass, Steve Erickson and W.S. Merwin. The foundation has also recognized people known as much for their public intellectual activities as for their literary talents, such as Barbara Ehrenreich and Edward Said.

The foundation also gives a "Cultural Freedom Prize" for the stated purpose of recognizing "people whose extraordinary and courageous work celebrates the human right to freedom of imagination, inquiry, and expression." Prize winners include Elouise P. Cobell, Robert Fisk, Eduardo Galeano, Claudia Andujar, Mahmoud Darwish, Arundhati Roy, Helen Caldicott and Cornel West.

The foundation does not accept applications for awards or fellowships. Candidates are suggested anonymously "by a network of writers, literary scholars, publishers, and editors," with the foundation's literary committee making the final determination.The foundation also "provides financial assistance to tribes and nonprofits that serve Native American communities..." For instance, it gave more than $7 million in grants to the Blackfeet Reservation Development Fund from 1998 to 2009, to support litigation on behalf of Native Americans with interests in trust lands. This nonprofit was created by Elouise P. Cobell and her legal team to bring claims against the United States for mismanaging lands held in trust for Native Americans. The Cobell v. Salazar case was filed in 1996 and settled in 2009.

List of Asian-American writers

This is a list of Asian American writers, authors, and poets who have Wikipedia pages. Their works are considered part of Asian American literature.

List of University of Hawaii alumni

This page lists the alumni of the University of Hawaiʻi. Alumni who also served as faculty are listed in bold font, with degree and year in parentheses. An asterisk (*) shows those who attended, but did not graduate.

List of people from Hawaii

Hawaii has been home to many notable people who have become well-known beyond the shores of the islands. Listed below are notable people who have called Hawaii home during some significant part of their lives.


Molokaʻi (Hawaiian: [ˈmoloˈkɐʔi]) anglicized as Molokai (; ), nicknamed “The Friendly Isle”, is the fifth largest island of eight major islands that make up the Hawaiian Islands archipelago in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It is 38 by 10 miles (61 by 16 km) in size at its extreme length and width with a usable land area of 260 square miles (673.40 km2), making it the fifth-largest of the main Hawaiian Islands and the 27th largest island in the United States. It lies east of Oʻahu across the 25-mile (40 km) wide Kaiwi Channel and north of Lānaʻi, separated from it by the Kalohi Channel.

The island has been known both for developments by Molokaʻi Ranch on much of the island, for pineapple production, cattle ranching and tourism. Residents or visitors to the west end of Molokaʻi can see the lights of Honolulu on Oʻahu at night; they can view nearby Lānaʻi and Maui from anywhere along the south shore of the island. In Kalawao County, on the Kalaupapa Peninsula on the north coast, settlements were established in 1866 for quarantined treatment of persons with leprosy; these operated until 1969. The Kalaupapa National Historical Park now preserves this entire county and area.

Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award

The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award is an award given annually to beginning women writers. Established in 1995 by American author Rona Jaffe, the Foundation offers grants to writers of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.Recipients of the award are selected through nominations only. Past recipients include Aryn Kyle, Emily Rapp, and ZZ Packer.

Susan M. Schultz

Susan M. Schultz (born 1958) is an American poet, critic, publisher and English professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She specializes in modern and contemporary poetry, American literature, and creative writing. She moved from Virginia to Honolulu in 1990.

She was born in Belleville, Illinois, and lives in Kāne'ohe, Hawaii. She is author of three collections of poems, Aleatory Allegories (Salt, 2000), Memory Cards & Adoption Papers (Potes & Poets, 2001) And then something happened (Salt, 2004), a critical book, A Poetics of Impasse in Modern and Contemporary American Poetry (University of Alabama Press, 2005), and editor of The Tribe of John: Ashbery and Contemporary Poetry (University of Alabama Press, 1995). Her poetry chapbooks include Another Child, Earthquake Dreams, Voice-overs (with John Kinsella), and Addenda.

In 1995, Susan M. Schultz founded Tinfish Press, a paper and electronic journal and publisher of experimental poetry from the Pacific region (including Hawai`i, New Zealand/Aotearoa, Australia, California and western Canada), and of a series of Tinfish Network chapbooks. Authors published include Barbara Jane Reyes, Yunte Huang and Linh Dinh. Ron Silliman has written about her:

Schultz is somebody who really gets it as to how parables work & what their potential might be for writing. First, her poems have the precision of the best analytic philosophy. Second, she understands that the dynamics of the parable must play out in the referential world. Typically, poets who focus on the latter forget the importance of the former & a few of those who get the former tend to neglect the gears of causality in the latter. Schultz gets all of it & does so with a wit & tenderness that made me stop just to wonder at it all.

Schultz has also published critical articles and review essays on Hart Crane, Laura Riding, Gertrude Stein, John Ashbery, Charles Bernstein, Ann Lauterbach, Lois-Ann Yamanaka, and others.

In 1992 she was made president of Hawai'i Literary Arts Council.

Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers

Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers is a Japanese American-Hawaiian adult fiction novel by Lois-Ann Yamanaka. Its tonality is distinctive to that of a local Hawaiian culture in that all the main characters speak in Hawaiian Pidgin. Although it is an adult fiction novel, the plot follows a young Japanese girl throughout her years in middle school. The major themes of the novel include comparing a mother-daughter relationship with a father-daughter one, finding one's identity, and the politics of Japanese Hawaiian culture in a white America.

Sections of the novel were adapted for the award-winning film, Fishbowl [1](2005), by Hawaii filmmaker Kayo Hatta, that aired nationally on PBS in 2006.


Yamanaka (山中, literally "Middle of Mountain") is a Japanese surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Akira Joe Yamanaka, singer for the Flower Travellin' Band

Akiko Yamanaka (born 1945), Japanese politician of the Liberal Democratic Party

Chihiro Yamanaka, Japanese jazz pianist and composer

Daichi Yamanaka (born 1990), Japanese speed-skater

Hirofumi Yamanaka (born 1985), professional Japanese baseball player

Hiroko Yamanaka (born 1978), retired Japanese female mixed martial arts fighter

Lisa Yamanaka, Japanese Canadian actress and voice actress

Lois-Ann Yamanaka (born 1961), Japanese American poet and novelist from Hawaii

Miwako Yamanaka (born 1978), retired Japanese long-distance runner

Noriko Yamanaka, former Japanese female table tennis player

Norio Yamanaka (born 1928)

Ryoji Yamanaka (born 1983), former Japanese football player

Ryosuke Yamanaka (born 1993), Japanese football player

Ryujiro Yamanaka (山中 隆二郎, born 1995), Japanese footballer

Ryuya Yamanaka (born 1995), Japanese boxer

Sadajirō Yamanaka (1866-1936), Japanese art dealer

Sadao Yamanaka (1909–1938), Japanese film director and screenwriter

Sawao Yamanaka (born 1968), the frontman of the bands The Pillows

Seiko Yamanaka (born 1989), Japanese football player

Shino Yamanaka (born 1990), Japanese modern pentathlete

Shinsuke Yamanaka (born 1982), Japanese professional boxer

Shinya Yamanaka (born 1962), Japanese Nobel Prize-winning stem cell researcher

Takeshi Yamanaka (山中 武司, born 1971), Japanese ice hockey player

Toshio Yamanaka

Tsuyoshi Yamanaka (born 1939), Japanese olympic swimmer

Yamanaka Yukimori (1545–1578), Japanese samurai of the Sengoku period

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