Cynthia Kadohata ’79

Cynthia Kadohata


Cynthia Kadohata is the author of the Newbery Medal-winning book Kira-Kira (2005), the Pen USA Award-winner Weedflower (2006), and the National Book Award-winner The Thing About Luck (2013), among other prize-winning works for children. Her writing has appeared in Grand Street, the Mississippi ReviewThe New Yorker and Ploughshares, and she has also delved into adult fiction, including The Floating World (1989).

Currently a resident of Southern California, Kadohata, whose father was an itinerant laborer who was incarcerated during WWII in the Poston (AZ) internment camp, had a nomadic childhood. She has lived in Chicago, Georgia, Arkansas, Michigan, Boston, Pittsburgh and New York, and has worked as a waitress, sales clerk, typist, publicist and secretary.

Often described as a Japanese-American writer, Kadohata often explores the difficulties that come with a “hyphenated heritage,” but believes her novels have universal appeal as coming-of-age stories with relatable themes, such as what it means to be different and the struggle to find one’s identity.

After graduating from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Kadohata experienced a life-changing event when she was hit by a car that jumped a curb in Los Angeles. Her right arm permanently damaged, she realized how unpredictable life can be.

Kadohata’s latest book is Checked (2018), about a young hockey player who, forced to give up the sport he loves, grapples with redefining himself.