Banana Yoshimoto : biography
Yoshimoto was born in Tokyo on July 24, 1964. Her father is the famous poet and critic Takaaki Yoshimoto, and her sister, Haruno Yoiko, is a well-known cartoonist in Japan. She grew up in a liberal family.
She graduated from Nihon University’s Art College, majoring in literature. During that time, she took the pseudonym "Banana" after her love of banana flowers, a name she recognizes as both "cute" and "purposefully androgynous."
Yoshimoto keeps her personal life guarded, and reveals little about her certified Rolfing practitioner husband, Hiroyoshi Tahata and son (born in 2003). Each day she takes half an hour to write at her computer, and she says, "I tend to feel guilty because I write these stories almost for fun." She keeps an on-line journal for English-speaking fans.
Yoshimoto was awarded the 39th edition Best Newcomer Artists Recommended Prize by the Minister of Education in August 1988 for Kitchen and Utakata/Sankuchuari. In March 1989, Goodbye Tsugumi was awarded the 2nd Yamamoto Shugoro Literary Prize. In 1994 her first long novel, Amrita, was awarded the Murasaki-shikibu Prize.
Outside of Japan, she was awarded prizes in Italy: the Scanno Literary Prize in 1993, the Fendissime Literary Prize in 1996, the Literary Prize Maschera d’ argento in 1999, and the Capri Award in 2011.http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2011/05/93196.html
The Lake was longlisted for the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize.
Yoshimoto began her writing career while working as a waitress at a golf-club restaurant in 1987. She named American author Stephen King as one of her first major influences, and drew inspiration from his non-horror stories. As her writing progressed, she was further influenced by Truman Capote and Isaac Bashevis Singer.
Her debut novel, Kitchen, was an instant success, with over sixty printings in Japan alone. There have been two films made of the story, a Japanese TV movie and a more widely released version produced in Hong Kong by Yim Ho in 1997. She won the 6th Kaien Newcomer Writers Prize in November 1987, the Umitsubame First Novel Prize, and then the 16th Izumi Kyoka Literary Prize in January 1988 for Kitchen.
Another one of her novels, Goodbye Tsugumi, was also made into a movie in 1990, directed by Jun Ichikawa. The novel received mixed reviews.
Her works include 12 novels and seven collections of essays (including Pineapple Pudding and Song From Banana) which have together sold over six million copies worldwide. Her themes include love and friendship, the power of home and family, and the effect of loss on the human spirit.
In 1998, she wrote the foreword to the Italian edition of the book Ryuichi Sakamoto. Conversazioni by musicologist Massimo Milano.