Author of Turning Japanese, Where The Body Meets Memory,
The Colors of Desire, After We Lost Our Way,
and Angels for the Burning
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FROM REVIEWS OF MURA'S BOOKS:

Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire
Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei
Where the Body Meets Memory: An Odyssey of Race, Sexuality & Identity
The Colors of Desire
After We Lost Our Way

Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire

Mura successfully opens up a moment in history that is usually misunderstood, but the historical context is never overbearing or didactic. The story always comes first, but Mura presents just enough information to address the issue of the Japanese-American detainees who spoke out against their unjust treatment, and the cultural backlash they received for their supposedly Anti-American behavior after the war.….In the end, this is a story about a man coming to terms with who he is and where he comes from. It's about a man searching through the past to find that he has a lot to be proud of.”  -- Sheila Regan, TC Daily Planet

Booklist review:

Ben Ohara grows up tough in a tough Chicago neighborhood, driven to extremes by his father's unspoken anguish and unexplained absences, his mother's fierce pragmatism, and the certainty that his younger brother, Tommy, is much smarter than he is. Ben lands in reform school, while Tommy is on his way to becoming an astrophysicist. Ultimately, Tommy's study of the cosmos does not help him here on earth, while Ben becomes a high-school history teacher attempting to write a history of Japanese suicides.  Memories of his difficult boyhood and his brilliant but doomed brother interleave with Ben's mordant and penetrating ruminations on the underlying connections between ritual suicides, samurai, the atomic bomb, Godzilla, the shameful internment of Japanese Americans, and the draft resisters known as the No-No Boys. Memoirist (Turning Japanese, 1991) and poet Mura manages rather spectacularly to bring a light touch to his intense first novel, a crepuscular tale of one man's struggle to decipher his poisonous legacy of sorrow, shame, and prejudice; refuse the narcotic of forgetting; and pursue the bracing clarity of truth and remembrance.
- Donna Seaman, Booklist

“David Mura is essential. There is no writer that dives deeper (or more bravely) into the chasm that is the human heart. His first novel Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire is a tour de force: luminously written and by turns crafty, tough, wise, and joyful. Pure poetry is in these pages, and a voice for the ages.” -JUNOT DIAZ

“Charged and probing, Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire heals and surprises-a moving act of reclamation.”  --GISH JEN

Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei

(Josephine Miles Book Award from the Oakland PEN; New York Times Notable Books of Year)

"There is brilliant writing in this book, observations of Japanese humanity and culture that are subtly different from and more penetrating than what we usually get from Westerners." --The New Yorker

"In his memoir Turning Japanese , the poet David Mura brings an intriguing perspective to the New World quest for enlightenment from this ancient and ascendant culture, being himself a sansei--a third generation Japanese-American...Drawing on his own history of repressed racial self-consciousness, Mr. Mura is quite good on the sexual politics of race...His general observations on the landscape and customs can be fresh and revealing...Ultimately, Mr. Mura seems to have acquired a sense of ease, and of inspiration--like a man who has discovered a fertile atoll in mid-Pacific." --Jay McInerney, The New York Times

"Turning Japanese reads like a fascinating novel you can't put down....The strength and eloquence of Mura's book resides in his ability to capture and speak to the Japanese-American experience across generations, and perhaps, more importantly, to present the tools and insights for people across cultures and ethnicities to examine, re-examine and reclaim their sense of history and identity. In this way, Mura's story is a universal one, and one that is accessible to everyone, even those whose experience in the U.S. is not that of a person of color." --Sheila Muto, Asian Week  

"The heady drafts of this book are indeed his tale-spinnings and meditations, and there is genius in the divigations of his thoughts as they drift towards contemplations of the past, to ramblings on literary histories, both Japanese and Western, to questions of personal identity and his relationship to white America....Like Petrarch, he writes with grace and simplicity of style; like Augustine's, his imagination is capable of sustained rococo meditation; like Sei Shonagon, he is possessed of a finely tuned wit. Yet, it his confrontation of painful, personal and racial conflicts that makes this work unique and inspires his most compelling writing...Mura's book is a saga from a postexistentialist perspective that might serve as a contemporary guide to perplexed world travelers and displaced persons who have not so much lost secure identities and homelands as the abiding need--perhaps classical and outmoded--to maintain them...His Turning Japanese is an extraordinary contribution and a necessary book for our richly complicated time." --Garrett Hongo, Manoa

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Where the Body Meets Memory: An Odyssey of Race, Sexuality & Identity

"David Mura's eloquent meditation on desire, race and identity, Where the Body Meets Memory, illustrates the ways that social attitudes can distort the sense of self and invade the most intimate relations. As a sansei, or third generation Japanese-American, Mr. Mura grew up knowing that his parents and grandparents had been placed in internment camps during World War II. Perhaps even more insidiously undermining to Mr. Mura's sense of self were the racial stereotypes he absorbed and his obsession with pornography and sexual conquest, with the objects of his desire almost exclusively white women. Mr. Mura, a poet, traces his compulsive longings and behavior to a sense of shame over his ethnicity. He felt trapped: either he could conform, as his father did, to the white stereotype of the Asian as a "model minority:--hardworking, compliant, nonsexual--or he could attempt to explode these stereotypes by desperately pursuing his own fantasies, created in reaction to those he felt were imposed upon him. The slow and arduous work toward self-awareness reflected in Where the Body Meets Memory released Mr. Mura from both unsatisfying positions."

--Paula Friedman, New York Times

"Not long ago a front-page New York Times headline declared: 'New sense of race arises among Asian Americans.' David Mura's gorgeously lyrical, richly reflective and often angry memoir is for all who wonder why. He began life as a 'model minority' and 'honorary white' who nonetheless felt always the outsider but never quite knew why. He arrives, in his forties, self-consciously a 'person of color,' able to feel at home in America only when he identifies with those who feel excluded from it....In Where the Body Meets Memory he emerges as a very different writer, one with a novelist's human eye and a poet's taut economy. His prose is diamond-pure, and he uses it to tell two stories in counterpoint, one of his parents' flight from their ethnicity and their past, the other of his own recovery of both....Mura's book may be read as a repudiation of America's fantastic power to assimilate, or as an example of it. Either way, the story has rarely been so movingly told."

--Jonathan Rach, Washington Post

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The Colors of Desire

"The powerful poems of Mura's impressive second collection possess a brutality beneath the sweetness of their language. In his first book, Mura explored cultural, social and political issues with an objective eye; here he turns the focus inward and expertly examines the boundaries of his identity as a sexual Japanese man....In the longest sequence here, "The Affair," he presents a wrenching adultery involving an Asian American man and a married Caucasian woman; Mura plunges beneath the surface of mere betrayal to comment on race, identity, sex, and pain. Intelligent and passionate, Mura bares his soul and amazes his readers with the beauty and darkness of his work."

--Elizabeth Gunderson, Booklist

"The title poem shows that Mura does not compartmentalize but sees an interrelationship of the components of desire. It touches on his father's life, the rugged images in a pornographic film and Mura's childhood, and its broad strokes do not provide easy resolution of his concerns.

The Colors of Desire contains several long poems that give Mura the luxury of closely dissecting ideas while break out of the role of invisible writer....Mura's shorter poems highlight his facility with sensuous, colorful language."

--Elaine Shelly, St. Paul Pioneer Press  

"Poetry should be about some sort of truths--even dark truths--and Mura shines illuminating words directly into those hidden corners...Mura's honesty is scorching...The truths he tells sometimes come close to the blinding; then, they are sometimes washed in a tone of delicate tendernesss...His mind, his life his words are open armed, exquisitely crafted invitations that bid the reader to enter--at the reader's own risk, of course--into where the resplendent colors and the achingingly dark corners of desire can be experienced."

--David M. Perkins, Chicago Books In Review

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After We Lost Our Way  

"In David Mura's startling first collection of poetry, After We Lost Our Way, we find a young poet far more willing than most poets to address complicated cultural, social and political issues...For Mura, human courage and human sympathy become the only currencies with which we can buy back the personal histories and our humanity, so often stripped from us by the world. If anger and indignation can help propel these currencies into more and more hands, Mura seems to say, then let our anger be clear and our indignation be fluent. So this is that rarest of first books, one with a conscience equal to its invention."

--David St. John, The Hungry Mind Review

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