The National Book Foundation announced on Sept. 10 that Karen Tei Yamashita has been awarded its medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (DCAL), a prize with a $10,000 cash award.
The 70-year-old Yamashita is an author and playwright who in such fiction (and meta-fiction) as “I Hotel” and “Tropic of Orange’” employs multiple perspectives and narrative styles. The foundation praised her work as “expansive and innovative” and “genre-defying.”
Yamashita and Maxine Hong Kingston are the only Asian Americans to receive the award in its 34-year history. Rare among DCAL winners, Yamashita does not publish through one of the New York houses, but with the Minneapolis-based nonprofit Coffee House Press.