Hanya Yanagihara
Hanya Yanagihara (2016)
Hanya Yanagihara (2016)
BornHanya K Yanagihara
(1974-09-20) September 20, 1974 (age 46)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.[1]
OccupationAuthor, writer, journalist
Alma materSmith College[2]
Notable worksA Little Life (2015)
The People in The Trees (2013)

Hanya K Yanagihara (born September 20, 1974)[3] is an American novelist, editor, and travel writer. She grew up in Hawaii.[4]

Early life

A fourth-generation resident of Hawaii, Yanagihara was born in Los Angeles, California. Her father, hematologist/oncologist[4] Ronald Yanagihara,[5] is from Hawaii and her mother was born in Seoul. Yanagihara is partly of Japanese descent through her father.[6] As a child, Yanagihara moved frequently with her family, living in Hawaii, New York, Maryland, California, and Texas.[7] She attended Punahou High School in Hawaii.[8]


Following her graduation from Smith College in 1995, Yanagihara moved to New York and worked for several years as a publicist.[4] She is the editor-in-chief of T: The New York Times Style Magazine.[9] 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.[10] 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.’”[10] Previously she wrote and was an editor for Condé Nast Traveler before leaving in 2015 to become a deputy editor at T.[10] Of working as an editor while writing fiction on the side, she says, “I’ve never done it any other way.”[10]

Her first novel, The People in the Trees, based on the real-life case of the virologist Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, was praised as one of the best novels of 2013.[4]

Yanagihara's A Little Life was published in March 2015, receiving predominantly favorable reviews.[11] The book was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize for fiction,[12] and won the 2015 Kirkus Prize for fiction.[13] 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.[14] 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.[15]

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.[16] 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."[17][18]

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."[19]

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.[10] 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."[10] She has said that "the contemporary writers I admire most are Hilary Mantel, Kazuo Ishiguro, and John Banville."[19]

Works and publications


  1. ^ "Hanya Yanagihara | The Man Booker Prizes". themanbookerprize.com. Archived from the original on 2015-08-10. Retrieved 2016-02-21.
  2. ^ "WordSmith « - Smith College Office of Alumnae Relations Smith College Office of Alumnae Relations". alumnae.smith.edu. Retrieved 2016-02-21.
  3. ^ "Hanya K Yanagihara - California Birth Index". FamilySearch. 20 September 1974. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d Nazaryan, Alexander (19 March 2015). "Author Hanya Yanagihara's Not-So-Little Life". Newsweek. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  5. ^ "Talking with Hanya Yanagihara About Her Debut Novel, The People in the Trees". Vogue. 12 August 2013. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  6. ^ Development, PodBean. "Episode 30 - Hanya Yanagihara: A Little Life - Part 3". Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  7. ^ "Hanya Yanagihara: 'I wanted everything turned up a little too high'". The Guardian. July 26, 2015.
  8. ^ Kidd, James (5 January 2014). "Maverick in a Pacific Tempest: Hanya Yanagihara on being a first novel sensation". The Independent. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  9. ^ "Hanya Yanagihara". The New York Times. 2018-05-18. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-05-27.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Brockes, Emma (2018-04-22). "Hanya Yanagihara: influential magazine editor by day, best-selling author by night". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-05-30.
  11. ^ Sacks, Sam (6 March 2015). "Fiction Chronicle: Jude the Obscure". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  12. ^ "The Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2015 shortlist is revealed". The Man Booker Prize. 15 September 2015. Archived from the original on 29 September 2015. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  13. ^ "2015 Finalists | Kirkus Reviews". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 2018-09-26.
  14. ^ Maloney, Jennifer (3 September 2015). "How 'A Little Life' Became a Sleeper Hit". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  15. ^ "A Little Life". www.goodreads.com. Retrieved 2018-05-27.
  16. ^ Mendelsohn, Daniel (3 December 2015). "A Striptease Among Pals". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  17. ^ Howard, Gerald (17 December 2015). "Too Hard to Take". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  18. ^ Alison, Flood (2 December 2015). "Debate erupts as Hanya Yanagihara's editor takes on critic over bad review of A Little Life". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  19. ^ a b "'I Wouldn'tve Had a Biography at All': The Millions Interviews Hanya Yanagihara - The Millions". The Millions. 2015-08-05. Retrieved 2018-05-31.

External links