Minatoya, Lydia (Yuriko) 1950–

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Minatoya, Lydia (Yuriko) 1950–

(Lydia Yuri Minatoya)

PERSONAL: Born 1950, in Albany, NY; married; children: two. Education: Saint Lawrence University, B.A., 1972, George Washington University, M.Ed., 1976; University of Maryland, Ph.D., 1981.

ADDRESSES: Home—Seattle, WA. Office—North Seattle Community College, 9600 College Way N., Seattle, WA 98103. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

CAREER: Educator and writer. Boston University, Boston, MA, member of staff, 1981–83; University of Maryland, lecturer in Tokyo and Okinawa, Japan, 1983–85; North Seattle Community College, Seattle, WA, faculty member. Spent two years teaching psychology and American culture in Japan and China.

AWARDS, HONORS: Individual artists grant, King County (WA) Arts Commission, 1991, 1993; American PEN Center Jerard Award, Pacific Northwest Bookseller Award, American Library Association Notable Book Award, New York Pubic Library Books to Remember Award, and Washington State Governor's Writers Award, all for Talking to High Monks in the Snow: An Asian-American Odyssey; National Book Award, and PEN Hemmingway Award nominations, both for The Strangeness of Beauty; Thomas M. Magoon Award for Distinguished Alumni, University of Maryland, 1999; Distinguished Alumnus Award, University of Maryland, 2001.


(As Lydia Yuri Minatoya) Talking to High Monks in the Snow: An Asian-American Odyssey, Harper-Collins (New York, NY), 1992.

The Strangeness of Beauty, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999.

Also author of numerous journal articles and short stories.

The Strangeness of Beauty was published in Germany, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands.

SIDELIGHTS: In her first book, Talking to High Monks in the Snow: An Asian-American Odyssey, Lydia Minatoya writes about her life as a Japanese American searching for cultural identity. She begins with her childhood in upstate New York, where her family faces discrimination. For example, although her father is a research scientist who has worked many years with the same firm, he learns that he is being paid the same as his lab assistant. While Minatoya and her sister become outraged, the family maintains traditional Japanese values and their father remains loyal to his employer. For her part, Minatoya is praised by her school teachers as a model of good student, but as time goes on she becomes more Americanized and less submissive. Minatoya goes on to earn a Ph.D. in counseling psychology, but all does not go smoothly. After Minatoya loses one of her early teaching jobs, in an effort to reconcile her dual American and Japanese cultural identities she takes a job teaching in Japan and China. Contact with her parents' family in Japan brings a new understanding of her heritage but also highlights the vast cultural differences that exist between these two identities. Ultimately, she is heartened by her successful teaching experience in China, and her trip to Nepal opens new insights that allow her to accept both herself and her experiences.

Reviewing Talking to High Monks in the Snow for the Village Voice, Luis H. Francia found that at times Minatoya "lapses into generalizations about Asia" and dubbed her "use of personal declaratives … tedious." Nevertheless, Francia called the book "a poignant, sensitive, and often funny account of growing up bicultural in a land that's never quite sure what to do with its rich mix of race and culture." A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that "the book's charms are many," while Leila Philip, writing in Ploughshares, commented: "Minatoya's subject—personal identity and its complex relationship with culture and circumstance—is always interesting, and as one would expect, her journey is full of surprises." In USA Today, Stephen G. Kellman commented that the author "looks back and endows her forty-something years with retrospective grace."

Minatoya turns to fiction with The Strangeness of Beauty, which tells the story of three generations of Japanese women. Etsuko, who leaves Japan for the United States in 1921, ends up raising her niece Hanae after Etsuko's sister dies. When Etsuko and Hanae return to Japan prior to World War II, they do so partly to flee growing anti-Japanese sentiments in the United States and partly to enable Hanae to experience a traditional Japanese upbringing. Back home, Etsuko faces rejection from her mother, Chic, and must come to terms with her own purpose in life as she faces both identity and cultural struggles.

Writing in A. magazine, Kim Yunah noted that The Strangeness of Beauty "suffers from a raft of disappointingly familiar themes," such as the typical conflict between mother and daughter. However, Yunah went onto write that "What redeems the novel is the sheer strength of its prose." A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the work a "lyrical first novel" and felt that parts of the book read like a Japanese form call the "Istory": a novel written in the form of autobiography. According to the reviewer, while "self-absorption, narrowness, oblique indirection, [and] dullness" exist within the text, "they are present … only occasionally and are more than offset by the richly detailed multigenerational and multicultural story." GraceAnne A. DeCandido, writing in Booklist, noted that, "What separates this full-hearted novel from others … is how very funny Minatoya can be, even in the most emotional of moments, and her gift for fabulously apt description."



Minatoya, Lydia Yuri, Talking to High Monks in the Snow: An Asian-American Odyssey, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1992.


A., September 30, 1999, Kim Yunah, review of The Strangeness of Beauty, p. 81.

Booklist, May 15, 1999, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Strangeness of Beauty, p. 1670; June 1, 2003, Rosalind Reisner, review of Talking to High Monks in the Snow and The Strangeness of Beauty, p. 1695.

Frontiers, Volume 19, 1998, Aki Uchida, Talking to High Monks in the Snow, p. 124.

International Examiner, June 2, 1999, Yoshiko Saheki, review of The Strangeness of Beauty, p. 12.

Library Journal, October 1,1999, review of The Strangeness of Beauty, p. 52; September 15, 2000, Nancy Pearl, review of The Strangeness of Beauty, p. 144.

MELUS, fall, 2004, Sau-ling C. Wong, "Middle-Class Asian American Women in a Global Frame: Refiguring the Statue of Liberty in Divakaruni and Minatoya," p. 183.

Northwest Asian Weekly, July 2, 1999, review of The Strangeness of Beauty, p. 4.

Ploughshares, fall, 1993, Leila Philip, review of Talking to High Monks in the Snow, p. 243.

Publishers Weekly, December 13, 1991, review of Talking to High Monks in the Snow, p. 42; May 17, 1999, review of The Strangeness of Beauty, p. 58.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 17, 1999, Colleen Kelly Warren, review of The Strangeness of Beauty, p. D12.

USA Today, May, 1992, Stephen G. Kellman, Talking to High Monks in the Snow, p. 96.

Village Voice, April 14, 1997, Luis H. Francia, Talking to High Monks in the Snow, pp. 70-71.


Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis News Center Web site, http://www.newscenter.iupui/edu/ (February 23, 2004), "Award-winning Author to Speak at IUPUI."

RainbowBookfest.com, http://www.rainbowbookfest.com/ (February 23, 2005), "Lydia Minatoya."