Born in Chiba-ken, Japan in 1966, Hiromi Goto of Burnaby immigrated at age three. She lived on the West Coast for eight years; two years in Surrey, a summer in White Rock and the rest of the time in Langley. She moved to Nanton, Alberta where her father realized his ambition to operate a mushroom farm. Growing up she was influenced by the stories of Japan and Japanese culture told to her by both her grandmother and father. Goto attended the University of Calgary, graduating with a B.A. in 1989.

Hiromi Goto's first novel, Chorus of Mushrooms (1994), received the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book in the Caribbean and Canada region and was co-winner of the Canada-Japan Book Award. It's about three women in the same family in Nanton. The grandmother came to Canada at age 54 having survived a loveless marriage and the firebombing of Japan during World War II. Her daughter rejects traditional Japanese culture in order to integrate in a new society, changing her name to Kay. She marries a Japanese Canadian mushroom grower and they have a daughter who forges her own identity between the two older female forces.

Goto's second novel, The Kappa Child (2001), was a finalist for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Regional Book, and was awarded the James Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award. The title refers to a creature in Japanese folk tales called the kappa, with a frog's body, a turtle's shell and a bowl-shaped head that holds water. The novel mixes science fiction, fantasy and Japanese mythology. This blending of genres mirrors Goto's interest in gender blending. Goto's first young adult novel, The Water of Possibility, was published in the same year.

The title story of Goto's collection of stories, Hopeful Monsters (Arsenal $19.95 2004), is derived from a paper by Wendy Pearson called "Sex/uality and the Hermaphrodite in Science Fiction, or, The Revenge of Herculine Barbin" from a book called Edging into the Future: Science Fiction and Contemporary Cultural Transformation (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004). It is not directly derivative of Nicholas Mosley's novel Hopeful Monsters. The collection in general is concerned with transformation and adaptation. The hopeful monsters, according to press material, "are women who will not be tethered by familial duty or the ghosts of the past."

Partly written during Goto's 2007 Writer in Residency stint at the Vancouver Public Library, her YA/Crossover novel, Half World (2009), was long-listed for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and received the 2010 Sunburst Award and the Carl Brandon Society Parallax Award. Half World is described as an epic gender-bending fantasy about a lonely, overweight only child of a loving but neglectful mother who is lured back to "Half World" by the vindictive Mr. Glueskin. The heroine Melanie Tamaki must save her parents and protect the future of the universe in the bargain.

A long poem, co-written with David Bateman, also appeared in 2009. Wait Until Late Afternoon is her first book-length poetry publication.

Darkest Light, a companion novel to Half World, was the first book released under the new Razorbill Imprint of Penguin Canada.

In honour of its 20th anniversary, NeWest Press released a special edition of her seminal Chorus of Mushrooms in the spring of 2014.

A self-described feminist, Hiromi is a writing instructor, editor and the mother of two.


A Chorus of Mushrooms (NeWest Press, 1994, 2014) -- novel
The Water of Possibility (Coteau Books, 2001) -- young adult novel
The Kappa Child (Red Deer Press, 2001) -- novel
Hopeful Monsters (Arsenal Pulp, 2004) -- stories 1-55152-157-1
Half World (Puffin Canada 2009). Illustrated by Jillian Tamaki. 978-0-670-06965-1
Wait Until Late Afteroon (2009)
Darkest Light (Penguin / Razorbill 2012) 9780670065271

[BCBW 2014] "Japanese" "Feminism" "Fiction"