David Mura

Minnesota, United States

Member Since: 02/20/2013

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, 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). His most recent work is the novel Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire (2008), a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award, the John Gardner Fiction Prize and Virginia Commonwealth University Cabell First Novelist Award.


Mura’s newest poetry collection, The Last Incantations, was published by Northwestern University Press in 2014.  Mura’s third book of poetry is Angels for the Burning. His second, The Colors of Desire (1995), won the Carl Sandburg Literary Award.  His first, After We Lost Our Way  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).   


Among his awards, Mura has received a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers’ Award, a US/Japan Creative Artist Fellowship, two NEA Literature Fellowships, two Bush Foundation Fellowships, four Loft-McKnight Awards, several Minnesota State Arts Board grants, and a Discovery/The Nation  Award.  He has also received a Jones Commission, a Multicultural Collaboration Grant, and a McKnight Advancement Grant for playwrighting from the Playwrights' Center.         


Mura and African American writer Alexs Pate, Mura created a multi-media performance piece, Secret Colors, about their lives as men of color and Asian American-African American relations.  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).  Mura’s stage adaptation of Li-Young Lee’s memoir, “The Winged Seed,” premiered at Pangea World Theater in Oct. 1997.  His play “Internment Voices,” co-written with Esther Suzuki, received a CLPEF grant and premiered with Theater Mu in June, 1998.


Mura currently teaches in the Stonecoast MFA program.  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., the U. of Oregon and VONA. 

Website: davidmura.com

Twitter Username: @MuraDavid


  • After We Lost Our Way , E.P. Dutton; reprint Carnegie Mellon University (June 1989)
  • Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei , Atlantic Monthly Press (April 1991)
  • The Colors of Desire , Anchor/Doubleday (1995)
  • Where the Body Meets Memory , Anchor/Doubleday (1995)
  • Song for Uncle Tom, Tonto & Mr. Moto: Poetry & Identity , University of Michigan Press (2002)
  • Angels for the Burning , Boa Editions Ltd. (2004)
  • Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire , Coffee House Press (2008)
  • The Last Incantations , Northwestern University Press (April 2014)


  • Oakland PEN Josephine Miles Book Award(1991)
  • Loft McKnight Award(2008)
  • Loft McKnight Fellowship(1998)
  • Carl Sandburg Literary Award/Chicago Public Libarary(1995)
  • Lila Wallace Readers' Digest Writers' Award(1995)


  • Faculty Member at Stonecoast MFA Program, University of Southern Maine (January 2008 - )
  • Faculty Member at VONA Writers' Conference (June 2002 - )


  • Bachelor of Arts in English from Grinnell College (June 1974)
  • Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Vermont College (June 1991)

Genres of Interest

Fiction, Creative nonfiction, Playwriting, Screenwriting, Poetry