( 1924- )
Born in California's Imperial Valley, Wakako Yamauchi was one of four children born to Issei (Japanese-born American) parents who made their living from farming. The young Wakako turned to reading and writing to escape the solitude and isolation of farm life. Her high school education was interrupted with the outbreak of World War II when she and her family were placed in the internment camp at Poston, Arizona. Her father died in the camp, but Wakako was eventually able to leave for Chicago where she went to art school and attended plays for the first time.
After marriage to Chester Yamauchi in 1948, she gave up hopes of a career in commercial art and design to devote herself to her family. In 1955 Yamauchi gave birth to her only child, Joy. It was following the birth of her child that she began to write, as one way to pass on the Japanese culture of her own mother to her daughter. Later she took a correspondence course in short-story writing at the University of California at Berkeley.
Her short story "And the Soul Shall Dance" was published in the 1974 landmark anthology of Asian writing, AIIIEEEEE, where it gained the attention of Mako, the artistic director of the East West Players of Los Angeles. He convinced Yamauchi to turn the short story into a play, and her career as a playwright began. Since then she has written eleven additional plays and received four Rockefeller Foundation playwriting awards.
Wakako Yamauchi is also a prose writer; many of her short stories have been published in anthologies and textbooks. A collection of her writing, Songs My Mother Taught Me, was published by the Feminist Press at City University of New York in 1994.
She currently lives in Gardenia, California, near her daughter's family.