Introduction to a Reading by Karen Tei Yamashita at USC
by Thomas Gustafson
Good afternoon, and welcome to this reading by Karen Yamashita. Thank you all for
Karen has been teaching for the English Department and the Program in American
Studies and Ethnicity this past semester, and on behalf of both departments, I’d just like
to say: it’s been a joy and honor and privilege to have you as a colleague
It’s only fitting that we’ve tried to make Karen feel at home here
I don’t think there is any writer in the world who should feel more at home here.
Karen was born in Oakland, but she grew up about a mile from here, near the
intersection of Jefferson and Normandie, so welcome back.
While Karen has a special claim to this city and to this neighborhood, in her life and
through her writing, she’s become something of a citizen of the world, an artist at home
in many places, and writer who has developed and exemplifies a beautiful, intricate
Along with LA, Karen has been at home in Minnesota, where she was an
undergraduate at Carlton College, and she also spent a year as an exchange student in
She then lived nine years in Sao Paulo, Brazil before returning to California in the mid-
She is now a professor of literature and creative writing at UC Santa Cruz.
She’s written plays, screenplays, and poetry and completed translations, and she’s the
author of a wonderful foreword to a collection of Asian American writing entitled
But she’s best known for a set of novels that offer something of a magic carpet ride
through the lands where she has lived:
Her first novel,
The Arc of the Rainforest
(1990), won an American Book Award, and
she’s also written
(1992), about Japanese immigrant community in Brazil,
Circle K Cycles
(2001), about Brazilians living in Japan.