Hanya Yanagihara: Biography

Hanya Yanagihara

Hanya Yanagihera is an author of two novels, The People in the Trees, praised by Newsweek as being one of the best novels of 2013, and A Little Life (2015), which was a surprise best seller that was both shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for fiction and a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award for fiction. Both novels share a common theme of child molestation.

Of Hawaiian ancestry and born in Los Angeles to parents who were of the last generation to work in the fields of Hawaii, Yanagihara’s family moved often to accompany her father’s work as a hematologist/oncologist. She spent her childhood in Hawaii, New York, Baltimore, and Texas. She attended Smith College and graduated in 1995, but unlike many authors, hasn’t received an MFA.

The People in the Trees is based on the true story of virologist Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, who was a friend of Yanagihera’s father. Yanagihara spent fifteen years creating the imaginary world which is it’s setting. A Little Life is set in her own neighborhood. Whereas The People in the Trees took her eighteen years to write, she completed A Little Life in just eighteen months. Yanagihara was working full time while she wrote her novels, has worked as an editor-at-large at Conde Nast Traveler, and is now a deputy editor at T: The New York Times Style Magazine.

Hanya Yanagihera lives in Manhattan and enjoys traveling, and hopes to someday move to Tokyo. She is fascinated by the many Shinto and Buddhist shrines that she encounters on her travels to the city.