Ryka Aoki

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Ryka Aoki
OccupationWriter, teacher and composer[1]
Alma materCornell University
rykaryka.com Edit this at Wikidata

Ryka Aoki is an American[2] author and poet. She teaches English at Santa Monica College and gender studies at Antioch University.[3]

Her work includes the poetry collection Seasonal Velocities and the novel He Mele a Hilo.[4][5] Seasonal Velocities was a finalist for the award for transgender nonfiction in the 25th Lambda Literary Awards in 2013.[6] Her book Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul was a finalist for the 28th Lambda Literary Awards in 2016.[7]


Aoki earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from Cornell University, and won the Academy of American Poets' University Award.[8] She was honored by the California State Senate for her work with Trans/Giving, a Los Angeles performance series for trans and genderqueer individuals.[9]

Aoki, a trans woman, has said that she strives not to write just for other trans readers, but for their family, and other people in general. Her book He Mele a Hilo was meant to chronicle the common Hawaiian experience. In addition to her book, Aoki also wrote a piece for Publishers Weekly.[5] She hopes that through writing for a general audience instead of only trans people, that she can help others see transgender people as human, she wrote: "If a trans musician can make the audience cry by playing Chopin, how else, but as a human, can she be regarded? And if a book written by a queer trans Asian American can make you think of your own beaches, your own sunsets, or the dear departed grandmother you loved so much and even now find yourself speaking to, then what more powerful statement of our common humanity can there be?"[5]

An interview with Aoki was featured in the 2014 book Queer and Trans Artists of Color: Stories of Some of Our Lives, by Nia King, which was named one of The Advocate's Best Transgender Non-Fiction Books of 2014.[10] Aoki toured with the Tranny Roadshow[11][12] and the Fully Functional Cabaret,[13] creating visible performance space for trans people across the country.

In 2021, she released Light from Uncommon Stars. She has described the book as being in part influenced by the story of Ted Ngoy, the Cambodian American entrepreneur known as the "Donut King", stating that she wanted "to open my own literary donut shop".[14] Kirkus Reviews described the book as "filled with mouthwatering descriptions of food and heart-swelling meditations on music".[15] Writing for Tor.com, Maya Gittelman described Light from Uncommon Stars as "often a joy to read ... also often painful to read", and being "written with profound catharsis, forgiveness when it’s due, and so, so much hope";[16] likewise, Alana Joli Abbott described the book as "an incredibly powerful story of hope and redemption" for Den of Geek.[17]

Personal life[edit]

She holds a black belt and has been head judo coach at both Cornell University and UCLA.[9]


  • Seasonal Velocities, Ryka Aoki, 2012, ISBN 978-0-9851105-0-5
  • He Mele a Hilo, Topside Press, 2014, ISBN 978-1-62729-007-4
  • Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul, biyuti publishing, 2015, ISBN 978-0-9919008-5-5
  • Light From Uncommon Stars, Tor Books, 2021, ISBN 978-1-250-78906-8


  1. ^ "Bio". Ryka Aoki. Retrieved June 13, 2021.
  2. ^ Lee, Elizabeth (April 23, 2012). "Front Row: Ryka Aoki". ALINE Magazine (2012–04–23).
  3. ^ Reyes, Gabrielle (November 11, 2014). "Ryka Aoki speaks as part of Trans Week". The Brown Daily Herald. Retrieved October 9, 2015.
  4. ^ Jax, TT (January 6, 2013). "The Fruits of Winter: Ryka Aoki's Seasonal Velocities". Lambda Literary Foundation. Retrieved October 2, 2015.
  5. ^ a b c Aoki, Ryka (May 22, 2015). "Why I Write: Ryka Aoki". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved October 2, 2015.
  6. ^ Griffith, Nicola (March 6, 2013). "25th Annual Lambda Literary Awards Shortlist". Retrieved October 2, 2015.
  7. ^ "28th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists". Lambda Literary. April 11, 2016. Retrieved March 22, 2019.
  8. ^ "Ryka Aoki". Topside Press. Retrieved October 2, 2015.
  9. ^ a b "Ryka Aoki". Trans-Genre. Retrieved October 2, 2015.
  10. ^ Kellaway, Mitch (November 5, 2014). "The Year's 10 Best Transgender Non-Fiction Books". The Advocate. Retrieved October 9, 2015.
  11. ^ Feil, Megan. "Tranny Roadshow: laughs and learning about defying gender norms". The Guilfordian. Retrieved May 12, 2022.
  12. ^ "The Tranny Roadshow". WUNC. Retrieved May 12, 2022.
  13. ^ "The Fully Functional Cabaret". Barnard College. Retrieved May 12, 2022.
  14. ^ Aoki, Ryka (August 17, 2021). "Of Galaxies, Sprinkles, and Glazes: Lessons from the Donut King and Science Fiction's Golden Age". The Mary Sue. Retrieved September 2, 2021.
  15. ^ "Light from Uncommon Stars". Kirkus Reviews. July 10, 2021. Retrieved September 2, 2021.
  16. ^ Gittelman, Maya (October 7, 2021). "The Wild and Tender Magic of Ryka Aoki's Light from Uncommon Stars". Tor.com. Retrieved November 13, 2021.
  17. ^ Abbott, Alana Joli (September 28, 2021). "Donuts & Demons: Ryka Aoki's Light from Uncommon Stars". Retrieved November 13, 2021.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]