Writer of the Week: Banana Yoshimoto

Banana Yoshimoto was born in Tokyo, in July 24, 1964. She graduated with a major in Literature from Nihon University’s Art College, where she chose her first name in honor to the banana flower, as they are “rather cute and androgynous” in nature.

Yoshimoto grew up in a leftist, liberal household due to the influence of her father, Takaaki Yoshimoto, famous critic and philosopher of the Japanese New Left Movement of the 1960s. Her sister, Haruno Yoiko, a famous Japanese cartoonist, is also a publicly recognized figured. It is for this reason that Yoshimoto’s secrecy about her personal life is both strange and intriguing.

Her writing career began in 1987 while she was working as a waitress at a golf club restaurant, but did not launch into fame until later with the publication of her first novel “Kitchen.” This novel won the 6th Kaien Newcomer Writers Prize in 1987 and the 16th Izumi Kyoka Literary Prize a year later, 1988. She has also been awarded with the 39th Best Newcomer Artist Recommended by the Minister of Education in 1989 for the before-mentioned novel.

“Amurita,” another one of her compositions, won the 5th Murasaki-Shikibu Prize in 1955, while “Tugumi” won the 2nd Yamamoto Shugoro Literary Prize.

Prize recognition goes beyond Japan, as she was awarded with a few Italian prizes including the Literary Priza Scanno in 1993, the Fendissime Literary Prize in 1996, and the Literary Prize Maschera d’Argento in 1999.

Her style of writing revolves around youth and the struggles of teenage life. She focuses her work on teenage issues such as urban existentialism and the entrapment between imagination and reality. Although her settings, character, and even titles have an American air to them, the core remains consistently Japanese. Some of the recurring themes in her writing are food and dreams, which can be based upon the writer’s personal life.

One of the major influences in Yoshimoto’s style, surprisingly, is Steven King. She has expressed in past interviews how his non-horror stories made an impact in her life, and how these have influence her style of writing. Other influences include Truman Capote and Isaac Bashevis Singer.

To read more about Yoshimoto’s life you can visit her official site, which is both in Japanese and English, or you can read more about her life in this article by Metropolis. To read her works, you can go into Amazon and find her books for sale.