Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  David Alan Mura  

Pen Name: None


Audience: Adult;

Born: 1952 in North Chicago (Great Lakes) Illinois

-- David Alan Mura on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Mura was born in Illinois.

Biographical and Professional Information

David Mura is a poet, memoirist, essayist, playwright, writer of fiction, performance artist, and literary critic. He now lives in Minneapolis, MN.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

A Male Grief: Notes on Pornography and Addiction - An Essay
ISBN: 0915943271

Milkweed Editions. 1987

Through examining the relationship between child abuse, addictive family systems, and the adult male's consumption of pornography, this classic essay argues elegantly that this addiction to pornography is self-destructive, joyless, and unsatisfiable, a symptom of a consumer society rather than a natural urge. David Mura's classic monograph won the Milkweed Non-Fiction award when it was first published. Mr. Mura went on to receive a NEA Literature fellowship and The Nation's Discovery Award.

After We Lost Our Way (Carnegie Mellon Classic Contemporary Series: Poetry)
ISBN: 0887482686

Carnegie Mellon University Press. 1997

Poems explore the author's feelings and observations as a third generation Japanese-American, while discussing the killing fields of Asia, inner-city hospitals in North America, and the internment camps of World War II

Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei
ISBN: 0871134314

Atlantic Monthly Press. 1991

A memoir of the author's journey to Japan, the country his grandfather had left at the turn of the century, chronicles his quest for identity in the face of shame and cultural dislocation

The Colors of Desire: Poems
ISBN: 038547461X

Anchor. 1994

A collection of poems by the author of Turning Japanese, exploring race and sexuality, history and identity, through the lens of desire.

Where the Body Meets Memory: An Odyssey of Race, Sexuality and Identity
ISBN: 038547184X

Anchor. 1997

In Turning Japanese, poet David Mura chronicled a year in Japan in which his sense of identity as a Japanese American was transformed. In Where the Body Meets Memory, Mura focuses on his experience growing up Japanese American in a country which interned both his parents during World War II, simply because of their race. Interweaving his own experience with that of his family and of other sansei-third generation Japanese Americans-Mura reveals how being a "model minority" has resulted in a loss of heritage and wholeness for generations of Japanese Americans.

In vivid and searingly honest prose, Mura goes on to suggest how the shame of internment affected his sense of sexuality, leading him to face troubling questions about desire and race: an interracial marriage, compulsive adultery, and an addiction to pornography which equates beauty with whiteness. Using his own experience as a measure of racial and sexual grief, Mura illustrates how the connections between race and desire are rarely discussed, how certain taboos continue to haunt this country's understanding of itself. Ultimately, Mura faces the most difficult legacy of miscegenation: raising children in a world which refuses to recognize and honor its racial diversity.

Intimate and lyrically stunning, Where the Body Meets Memory is a personal journey out of the self and into America's racial and sexual psyche.

Song for Uncle Tom, Tonto, and Mr. Moto: Poetry and Identity (Poets On Poetry)
ISBN: 0472067761

University of Michigan Press. 2002

As a Sansei or third-generation Japanese American poet, David Mura is one of the generation of multicultural writers who are changing the face of American poetry. Song for Uncle Tom, Tonto, and Mr. Moto explores shifts in and challenges to aesthetic standards that have come about because of a more diverse range of American writers and because of the growing awareness of world literature.
Mura's writings recently have been at the center of various debates concerning race and literary standards. In this book, he argues the need for a more complicated and diverse set of literary standards than the canon has previously allowed, an opening up to the many voices that are "great within us." He contends that, when placed against a gathering awareness of a world literature, particularly in the so-called Third World, the boundaries of the traditional Anglo-American canon and its present-day proponents like Harold Bloom come to be seen as too narrow and parochial, reenacting the "tribal" label that many throw now at the advocates of multiculturalism.
Beyond its theoretical underpinnings, Song for Uncle Tom, Tonto, and Mr. Moto charts the wayward course of Mura's own development as a poet. In three interviews, Mura provides readings of his own work and discusses various issues of technique and form.
David Mura is a poet, memoirist, essayist, playwright, writer of fiction, performance artist, and literary critic. He is author of The Colors of Desire, After We Lost Our Way, and Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei.

Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire
ISBN: 1566892155

Coffee House Press. 2008

“There is no writer that dives deeper (or more bravely) into the chasm that is the human heart. [David Mura’s] first novel is a tour de force: luminously written and by turns crafty, tough, wise, and joyful.”—Junot Díaz

Ben Ohara is the sole surviving member his family. A troubled and brilliant astrophysicist, Ben’s younger brother has mysteriously vanished in the Mojave Desert. His father, one of a small group of WWII draft resisters (known as the No-No Boys) during the internment of Japanese Americans, committed suicide when Ben was young. And his mother, whose wish to escape the past was as strong as his father’s ties to it, has died with her secrets.

Now struggling to support his wife and children and under pressure to complete his historical study, Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire, Ben realizes that the key to unlocking the future lies in reassessing the past.

As Ben vividly recalls a childhood colored by the tough Chicago streets, horror movie monsters, sci-fi villains, Japanese folktales, and TV war heroes, he begins to understand the profound difference between coming of age and becoming a man. And by retracing his brother’s footsteps and returning to the site of the Heart Mountain Internment Camp, Ben uncovers a truth that has the power to set him free.

An acclaimed memoirist, poet, and playwright, David Mura is one of America’s most insightful cultural critics. His memoirs, Turning Japanese and Where the Body Meets Memory, along with his poems, essays, plays, and performances, have won wide critical praise and numerous awards. Visit his website at

The Last Incantations: Poems
ISBN: 0810152371

Triquarterly. 2014

The personal, historical, and artistic are all in dialogue in David Mura’s daring collection, The Last Incantations. In a variety of poetic modes, Mura harmonizes and contrasts multiple voices to form a powerful meditation. Certain poems speak from his experiences as a third-generation Japanese American and his family’s struggles to prove their "Americanness." Others speak from the intersections of our multiracial society—an Asian teenager in love with a Somali Muslim girl, an apostrophe to Richard Pryor, poems about a Palestinian American friend, Abu Ghraib, the hapa sculptor Isamu Noguchi. The result is a sustained multifoliate poetry, bursting with elegance, heartache, and truth.


New York Times Notable Book of the Year, (Turning Japanese)

, Loft McKnight Award for Poetry, 1992.

Speaking Engagements

Speaking Engagement Availability (Yes)

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