Goto, Hiromi

Hiromi Goto, writer (b. at Chiba-ken, Japan 13 Dec 1966). Hiromi Goto's family immigrated to Canada in 1969. They lived on the west coast of British Columbia for 8 years, before moving to Nanton, Alberta, where her father started a mushroom farm. Goto was educated at the University of Calgary (BA 1989) and studied creative writing under Aretha VAN HERK and Fred WAH. She has presented her work at many literary festivals and has served as writer-in-residence at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, the Vancouver Public Library, and Simon Fraser University.

The different Canadian settings of her childhood influenced Hiromi Goto's writing, as did her Japanese origins. Like the grandmother in her first novel, A Chorus of Mushrooms, Goto's 80-year-old grandmother told her Japanese tales when she was growing up. The old stories of life in Japan that Goto's father related sometimes featured ghosts or folk creatures.

A Chorus of Mushrooms (1994), is ground breaking in several ways: it incorporates the Japanese immigrant experience into a prairie novel; it includes Japanese culture and language in an English work; it balances magic realism, a critique of racism, and a coming-of-age narrative; and it is playful and serious at the same time. This work received the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for best first book in the Caribbean and Canadian regions and was co-winner of the Canada-Japan Book Award. The story focuses on the young female protagonist's relationship with her grandmother, who goes mysteriously missing. The great appeal of this novel is evident by its inclusion in many literature courses every year since it first appeared.

Goto's second novel, The Water of Possibility (2001), addresses young adult readers and artfully mixes fantasy, magical realism, Japanese tales, and immigrant alienation on the prairies. Goto again combines fantasy and science fiction in The Kappa Child (2001). (The kappa is a small, mythical creature with a frog's body, a turtle's shell and a bowl-shaped head that holds water.) Japanese-Canadian sisters in this novel confront the prairie as a new home. Like the young Goto children, they have moved from the Pacific rainforests to arid southern Alberta. The Kappa Child won the James Tiptree Jr. Award for gender-bending science fiction.

Hiromi Goto's stories, poetry and essays have also been published in literary journals and anthologies. In her collection of strange short stories, Hopeful Monsters (2004), she again examines family relationships: mothers and daughters, wives, sisters, and a generation of women living in myth. As in her earlier publications, she raises issues of race, gender, body shapes, and dislocation in what is apparently normal society. These same themes are present in Goto's dark fantasy for young adults, Half World, published in 2009.