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Author Kirino to SpeakPhoto by Makoto Watanabe

Author Kirino to Speak

Best-selling Japanese mystery writer Natsuo Kirino will discuss her work and read from her latest novel, 'Grotesque.'

By Vincent Lim
Staff Writer

Her works are extremely popular, but they go beyond the category of entertainment and address key social issues such as the status of women and discrimination against immigrant workers.

Celebrated Japanese author Natsuo Kirino will discuss her work and read from her latest novel, Grotesque, at the UCLA Faculty Center on Wednesday, April 11, 2007, starting at 2:00 p.m. The Paul I. and Hisako Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies, the Japan Foundation, and publisher Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., are sponsoring the event.

Best known as a mystery writer, Kirino is owner of six of Japan's major literary awards. She has won the Izumi Kyoka Prize for Literature for Grotesque and became the first Japanese writer nominated for the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Allan Poe Award for her first novel translated into English, Out.

Out tells the story of an abused wife who strangles her husband and enlists the aid of her bento-box factory co-workers to cover up the murder.

"Her novels are extremely popular, but they go beyond the category of entertainment and address key social issues such as the status of women and discrimination against immigrant workers," says UCLA Modern Japanese Literature Professor Seiji Lippit.

Out stirred controversy for its depiction of Japanese society following the economic collapse of the early 1990s. Kirino sets her story in the outskirts of Tokyo and highlights the desperation, despair, and loneliness of part-time female workers and immigrants. Lippit says Kirino's novels tell the stories of invisible people living at the society's margins.

After earning her law degree, Kirino toiled in obscurity as a waitress and at other jobs. She launched a career as a romance novelist in her thirties, but achieved fame as a mystery writer in her forties. Her resume includes sixteen novels and four volumes of collected short stories.

Kirino, whose real name is Mariko Hashioka, continues to write in various genres, and translations of her work appear in nineteen languages. Like a number of her characters, she is a wife and mother.

"Kirino is especially known for her focus on the plight of women in Japanese society, their struggles against discrimination in the workplace, and the constrictions of domestic life," Lippit says.

UCLA International Institute