Minnesota Author Biographies.

David Mura

David Mura

From Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire (2008) by David Mura

I'm an itinerant historian (i.e., no PhD, still untenured), and there's this book I've been working on for years, in a dozen notebooks and in the back files of my computer. In some ways it's not quite a real scholarly work, but it could help me jump several academic rungs if I did manage to finish it. I sometimes excuse my delay by saying only a trip to Japan will finally allow me to complete it. After all, the book is entitled Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire.

My title and subject betray my lifelong fascination with the origins of my family's grief and madness. Under Western eyes, grief and madness are popularly associated with the Japanese--samurai seppuku, kamikaze pilots, the author Yukio Mishima, even Madama Butterfly. As for my tribe of Japanese Americans, well, compared to the honto no nihonjin, we're rather obscure creatures. So obscure even some of our own can't quite admit we exist.

Biographical Notes

Birth: June 17, 1952, Great Lakes, Illinois

Author, poet, teacher, and performance artist David Mura is a third-generation Japanese-American (a sansei). He earned a B.A. in English from Grinnell College, Iowa in 1974. He pursued graduate work in English at the University of Minnesota from 1974-79 and earned a M.F.A. from Vermont College in 1991. Mura has been active with the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis and he served on the board of directors from 1982-84, as board president from 1987-88, and board vice president from 1988-1989. He was also a core faculty member and instructor in poetry and creative nonfiction beginning in 1984 at the Loft. He has taught at the University of Minnesota, St. Olaf College, Hamline University, the University of Oregon, the Voices of the Nation Association writers' conference, and Macalester College. His writing has been published in The Nation, The American Poetry Review, Crazyhorse, The New Republic, The Missouri Review, and other periodicals. Mura and African-American writer Alexs Pate created and performed in the performance piece Secret Colors and a movie, Slowly This, for the PBS series Alive TV. Mura continues to give readings and speak about issues of race and multiculturalism throughout the country.

Mura has received several awards, including two National Endowment for the Arts grants, four Loft-Mcknight Awards, several Minnesota State Arts Board grants, two Bush Foundation Fellowships (1981 and 1988), the U.S./Japan Creative Artist Fellowship (1984), the "Discovery"/The Nation Award (1987), the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers’ Award (1995), a 1989 National Poetry Series Contest winner for After We Lost Our Way (1989), Josephine Miles Book Award (1991), a nomination for the 1991 Minnesota Book Award for Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei (1991), and a nomination for the 1997 Minnesota Book Award for Where the Body Meets Memory: An Odyssey of Race, Sexuality and Identity (1996).

Selected Works
The titles below link to the catalog record in MnPALS, the Minnesota Historical Society’s library catalog. Please click on your browser's back button to return.

After We Lost Our Way
Angels for the Burning
The Colors of Desire: Poems
Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire
A Male Grief
Song for Uncle Tom, Tonto & Mr. Moto: Poetry & Identity
Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei
Where the Body Meets Memory: an Odyssey of Race, Sexuality, and Identity

Additional Resources

Minnesota Historical Society Links

• Search MNHS Library and Archives Catalog for author - Searches for works by this author in the Minnesota Historical Society library
The Graywolf Annual Five: Multi-Cultural Literacy - edited by Rick Simonson and Scott Walker
Northern Lights Episode #334
Northern Lights Episode #57

Web Links

David Mura – Author’s web site

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