柳美里

Yu Miri is a Japanese author of Korean ancestry, born in Yokohama in 1968. She lived a very fractured childhood where both of her parents flagrantly cheated on each other. As she grew older, she became increasingly antisocial, and constantly attempted to commit suicide: eventually, she was kicked out of high school. So she turned to theater, becoming an actress first, and later a playwright when she realized that her writing was far better than her acting.

With her parents out of the picture, Yu began delving into all the torments of her Japanese youth and putting them on paper, shunning word processors in favor of a fountain pen and paper. In 1992, Yu won the Kishida Drama Award, one of Japan's highest theatrical honors.

Before long, her dramatic hand turned to prose as well. A Fish Swimming in Stones, first published in 1994, chronicled the tribulations of a woman with a deformed face. A few years later, Yu was sued for defamation of character by a real woman, whom the story was based on, and the publication of the story was halted. That didn't stop her career, though: she won the ultra-prestigious Akutagawa Prize in 1997 for her short story "Family Movie." As Yu's stories became more and more widely read in Japan, her life became increasingly threatened by none other than Japan's nationalist right, who started to make threats of terrorism whenever she held a book signing. In Korea and Taiwan, however, her carnal and vaguely anti-Japanese style became very popular, a refreshing change from the likes of, say, Banana Yoshimoto.

Outside of Asia, Yu is less well-known. Only one of her eleven novels has been published in English: Gold Rush, an incredibly graphic story about an assertive 14-year-old boy who kills his wealthy and abusive father. Within the first fifty pages, you get to witness a gang rape, copious amounts of cocaine and speed, a dog killed with a golf club, and a boy making out with his sister.

At any rate, Yu is hot property in the world of contemporary Japanese literature: only midway through her thirties, she has already earned her place in the lit textbooks. She'll be a young girl for life, though: her upbringing (or lack thereof) has left her with no desire to marry or settle down, which, I would assume, is no problem at all for her devoted readers.

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