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Living Writers Series event dedicated to celebration of literature professor Karen Yamashita

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Each quarter, the Humanities Division’s Living Writers Series brings visiting authors and poets to UC Santa Cruz, providing students with an in-depth look into the world of the working writer.

Founded by literature professors Micah Perks and Karen Yamashita, co-directors of the Creative Writing program, the series has been the most active venue for bringing professional poets and writers to campus since 1997.

On February 28, the series will dedicate a special reading to a celebration of literature professor Karen Yamashita on the occasion of her retirement, beginning at 5 p.m. in the Humanities Lecture Hall.

“The chancellor will be there, and the EVC and the Dean, all to celebrate Karen,” Perks noted. “There will be five alums giving testimony, Sesshu Foster, a creative writing alum will read, and then Karen will read. It should be a joyous event, a celebration of all Karen has done at UCSC–for creative writing and for diversity on campus.”

“Of course, for me it’s a bittersweet event,” Perks added. “Karen and I were hired 21 years ago in the same year, 1997. We have been sisters in crime ever since. I have been so lucky to work with her; we all have been. She always thinks outside the box. She’s surprising, funny, incredibly creative, and incredibly hardworking and fun.” 

Yamashita received a 2011 California Book Award in the Fiction category for her novel I Hotel, and was a finalist for the National Book Award. I Hotel also won the American Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association Award, and the Association for Asian American Studies Book Award.

Known for her intensely researched works that reflect her interest in communities whose stories often go untold, Yamashita received the Chancellor’s Award for Diversity in 2009 and was co-holder with feminist studies professor Bettina Aptheker of the UC Presidential Chair for Feminist Critical Race and Ethnic Studies. 

Her other books include Through the Arc of the Rain Forest (1990), which received the American Book Award, and Brazil-Maru, named by the Village Voice as one of the 25 best books of 1992. Tropic of Orange (1997), was a finalist for the Paterson Fiction Prize, and she followed that with Circle K Cycles (2001), a book based on her research on the Brazilian community in Japan.

Yamashita’s most recent book, Letters to Memory (2017) examines her own family’s experience in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II through letters, stories, photographs, official documents, art, journals, and other personal records found in the family archive.