Hanya Yanagihara (2016)
|Born||Hanya K Yanagihara|
September 20, 1974
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Occupation||Author, writer, journalist|
|Alma mater||Smith College|
|Notable works||A Little Life (2015) |
The People in The Trees (2013)
A fourth-generation resident of Hawaii, Yanagihara was born in Los Angeles, California. Her father, hematologist/oncologist Ronald Yanagihara, is from Hawaii and her mother was born in Seoul. Yanagihara is partly of Japanese descent through her father. As a child, Yanagihara moved frequently with her family, living in Hawaii, New York, Maryland, California, and Texas. She attended Punahou High School in Hawaii.
Following her graduation from Smith College in 1995, Yanagihara moved to New York and worked for several years as a publicist. She is the editor-in-chief of T: The New York Times Style Magazine. She has said that after she published the acclaimed literary bestseller A Little Life, people in the publishing industry were baffled by her decision to take a job at T. Describing the publishing world as "a provincial community, more or less as snobby as the fashion industry," she said, "I'd get these underhanded comments like, 'Oh, I never knew there were words [in T magazine] worth reading.'" Previously she wrote and was an editor for Condé Nast Traveler before leaving in 2015 to become a deputy editor at T. Of working as an editor while writing fiction on the side, she says, "I've never done it any other way."
Yanagihara's A Little Life was published in March 2015, receiving predominantly favorable reviews. The book was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize for fiction, and won the 2015 Kirkus prize for fiction. Yanagihara was also selected as a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in Fiction. A Little Life defied expectations by its editor, Yanagihara's agent, and the author herself that it would not sell well. In addition to being critically acclaimed, it is beloved by readers themselves; as of January 2020, it has more than 148,000 largely positive reviews on GoodReads, with an average rating of 4.3 out of five.
One notable exception to the critical praise was Daniel Mendelsohn's review for The New York Review of Books, which sharply critiqued A Little Life?s technical execution, its depictions of violence, which Mendelsohn found ethically and aesthetically gratuitous, and its position with respect to the representation of queer life or issues by a presumed-heterosexual author. Mendelsohn's review prompted a response from Gerald Howard, the book's editor, taking issue not with Mendelsohn's dislike of the book but "his implication that my author has somehow, to use his word, 'duped' readers into feeling the emotions of pity and terror and sadness and compassion," and his implication that the book only appeals to "college students and recent graduates who have been coddled by a permissive and endlessly solicitous university culture into 'see[ing] themselves not as agents in life but as potential victims'". Mendelsohn responded by arguing that Howard should have "imposed as stringent an editorial oversight on his author as he would do on her reviewers."
Yanagihara described writing the book at its best as "glorious as surfing; it felt like being carried aloft on something I couldn't conjure but was lucky enough to have caught, if for just a moment. At its worst, I felt I was somehow losing my ownership over the book. It felt, oddly, like being one of those people who adopt a tiger or lion when the cat's a baby and cuddly and manageable, and then watch in dismay and awe when it turns on them as an adult."
Yanagihara has said that her father introduced her as a girl to the work of Philip Roth and to "British writers of a certain age," such as Anita Brookner, Iris Murdoch, and Barbara Pym. Of Pym and Brookner, she says, "there is a suspicion of the craft that the male writers of their generation didn't have, a metaphysical reckoning of what is it actually doing for the world." She has said that "the contemporary writers I admire most are Hilary Mantel, Kazuo Ishiguro, and John Banville."