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David Mura

Writer, Poet & Performance Artist


David Mura is a poet, creative nonfiction writer, fiction writer, critic, playwright and performance artist. A Sansei or third generation Japanese American, Mura has written two memoirs: Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei (Grove-Atlantic), which won a 1991 Josephine Miles Book Award from the Oakland PEN and was listed in the New York Times Notable Books of Year, and Where the Body Meets Memory: An Odyssey of Race, Sexuality and Identity (1996, Anchor/Random). His novel Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire (2008, Coffee House Press) was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award, the John Gardner Fiction Prize and Virginia Commonwealth University Cabell First Novelist Award.

Mura’s newest collection of poetry, The Last Incantations, has just been published by Northwestern University Press (March, 2014). Mura’s third book of poetry is Angels for the Burning (2004, Boa Editions Ltd.) and his second, The Colors of Desire (1995, Anchor), won the Carl Sandburg Literary Award from the Friends of the Chicago Public Library. His first, After We Lost Our Way (Carnegie Mellon U. Press), won the 1989 National Poetry Series Contest. His critical essays, Song for Uncle Tom, Tonto & Mr. Moto: Poetry & Identity, were published in the U. of Michigan Press Poets on Poetry series (2002).

Mura’s upcoming book projects include: a novel set in 1930’s China (The Warlord's Daughter); a collection of essays on race (Under the Skin); a book on creative writing (Viva for the Losers!); a book of short stories (A Halo of Fire); a letter to his father on his father’s life in response to his father’s letter descrying the 2012 election of Barack Obama.

Along with African American writer Alexs Pate, Mura has created and performs a multi-media performance piece, Secret Colors, about their lives as men of color and Asian American-African American relations. This piece premiered for the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (1994) and has been presented at various venues throughout the country. A film adaptation of this piece, Slowly, This, was broadcast in the PBS series ALIVE TV in July/August 1995. Mura has also been featured on the Bill Moyers PBS series, The Language of Life.

Mura’s other performance pieces and plays include, “Relocations: Images from a Sansei” (1990), “Silence & Desire” (1994) and “After Hours” (1995; in collaboration with pianist Jon Jang and actor Kelvin Han Yee). In 2010, Mura played the role of the King in the Bloomington Civic Theater’s production of “The King and I.” In 2011, he played Kim Phan in “Song of Extinction” produced by Theater Latte Da at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

Mura currently teaches in the Stonecoast MFA program and the VONA Writers’ Conference. Mura’s areas of teaching and literary interest include: performance art/spoken word, acting, Marxism, race and literature, Asian American literature and history, mixed race identity, art and social activism, and non-profit arts organizations. He has an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College and has taught at the University of Minnesota, Macalester College, St. Olaf College, the Loft, Hamline U. and the U. of Oregon. He has served as the Artistic Director of the Asian American Renaissance, an Asian American arts organization in Minnesota, and as an Artist Associate at Pangea World Theater. He gives readings and speaks on the issues of race and multiculturalism throughout the country.


How We Talk (or Don't Talk) About Race: Identity Changing in America

Leadership: the Three Act Play & the Limitations of the Good Student

Unleashing the Unconscious: the Age of Creativity

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