David Mura (born 1952) is an American author, poet, novelist, playwright, critic and performance artist whose writings explore the themes of race, identity and history. In 2018, Mura published a book on creative writing, A Stranger’s Journey: Race, Identity & Narrative Craft in Writing, in which he argues for a more inclusive and expansive definition of craft.
Mura has published two memoirs, Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei, which won the Josephine Miles Book Award from the Oakland PEN and was listed in the New York Times Notable Books of the Year, and Where the Body Meets Memory: An Odyssey of Race, Sexuality and Identity (1995). His most recent book of poetry is The Last Incantation (2014); his other poetry books include After We Lost Our Way, which won the National Poetry Contest, The Colors of Desire (winner of the Carl Sandburg Literary Award), and Angels for the Burning. His novel is Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire (Coffee House Press, 2008).
Mura communicates frequently through his social media accounts: blog.davidmura.com; @MuraDavid
Early life and education
David Mura was born in 1952 and grew up in Chicago, Illinois, the oldest of four children. He is a third generation Japanese American son of parents interned during World War II. After the war, his father changed the family name "Uemura" to "Mura." His grandparents came to USA from Japan before the Russo-Japanese War(1904).
Mura earned his B.A. from Grinnell College and his M.F.A. in creative writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He has taught at the University of Minnesota, St. Olaf College, The Loft Literary Center, and the University of Oregon. He currently resides in Saint Paul, Minnesota, with his wife Susan Sencer and their three children; Samantha, Nikko and Tomo.
Full-Length Poetry Collections
- The Last Incantations (Northwestern University Press, 2014)
- Angels for the Burning: Poems (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2004)
- The Colors of Desire: Poems (Anchor Books, 1995)
- After We Lost Our Way (Dutton, 1989; Carnegie-Mellon Press, 1997 - 2nd Edition)
- Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire (Coffee House Press, 2008)
- Where the Body Meets Memory: An Odyssey of Race, Sexuality and Identity (Anchor Books, 1995)
- Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1991; Anchor Books, 1992; Grove Press, 2005 - 3rd Edition)
- A Male Grief: Notes on Pornography and Addiction: An Essay (Milkweed Editions, 1987; republished as an Amazon e-book 2010)
- Song for Uncle Tom, Tonto, and Mr. Moto: Poetry and Identity (University of Michigan Press, 2002)
- A Stranger’s Journey: Race, Identity & Narrative Craft in Writing (University of Georgia Press, 2018) Films
- Slowly, This--written & featuring David Mura & Alexs Pate; dir. by Arthur Jafa; produced by the PBS Series ALIVE TV, 1995
- Relocations--written and performed by David Mura; directed by Mark Tang (four selections from the performance piece, Relocations: Images from a Sansei), 1998
Awards and honors
His honors include two NEA fellowships, the 1994 Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers Award (which includes a cash prize of $105,000), and a US/Japan Creative Artist Fellowship, two Bush Foundation Fellowships, four Loft-McKnight Awards, several Minnesota State Arts Board grants, and a Discovery/The Nation Award. He has had his work published in literary journals and magazines including The Nation, The American Poetry Review, The New Republic, The Missouri Review, and Crazyhorse.
- 1994 Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers Award
- 1993 National Endowment for the Arts - Literature Fellowships
- 1988 National Poetry Series
- 1987 Discovery/The Nation Award
- 1985 National Endowment for the Arts - Literature Fellowships
- 1984 U.S. - Japan Creative Artist Fellowship
- "David Mura". Archived 2007-08-22 at the Wayback Machine Minnesota Historical Society. Accessed September 6, 2008.
- "Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award: The art of the possible....".[permanent dead link]
- 日系アメリカ文学を読む 第18回 （最終回）『僕はアメリカ人のはずだった』 Ryusuke Kawai, Discover Nikkei, 10 Nov 2017
- Author Website > Biography
- The Library of Congress > The Library Today > Poets David Mura and Claudia Rankine To Read at the Library of Congress > November 9, 1995
- "David Mura: Writer, Speaker, Performer, Teacher". Accessed September 7, 2008. (primary source)
- Grossmann, Mary Ann (December 21, 1994). "St. Paul poet David Mura wins $105,000 prize". St. Paul Pioneer Press.
- Biography davidmura.com
- Minnesota Historical Society David Mura Archived 2007-08-22 at the Wayback Machine
- "NEA Literature Fellowships > Forty Years of Supporting American Writers" (PDF). Archived from the original on September 23, 2006. Retrieved 2009-07-03.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- The National Poetry Series > 1988 Winners