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Yanagihara, Hanya

Entry updated 16 May 2022. Tagged: Author.

(1974-    ) US journalist, editor and author best-known for the nonfantastic novel A Little Life (2015). Her first novel, The People in the Trees (2013), which is of sf interest, takes some elements from the life and career of Daniel Carleton Gajdusek (1923-2008), an eminent medical researcher who identified a cure for kuru, a deadly disease afflicting the South Fore people of New Guinea through their practice of funerary cannibalism, for which he shared the Nobel Prize; two decades after this breakthrough, Gajdusek was convicted of child abuse and imprisoned. The memoirs of A Norton Perinea, protagonist of The People in the Trees, describe his voyage to the remote Pacific Islands of U'ivu, and the even remoter Ivu'ivu where he is led to a Lost Race which seems to enjoy Immortality at the cost of cognitive function: they can hardly speak. The turtles they eat at ceremonies prove to be the source of their power and limitation (see Drugs; Poison). In due course, the turtles are exterminated, the lost race decimated, the remaining culture of both islands destroyed by pharmaceutical companies looking to extract the magic ingredient; what is left of the islands is at this point devastatingly colonized (see Imperialism; Race in SF). Perinea then adopts several abandoned children, and has sexual relations with them. He is imprisoned. The tale is complexly conveyed.

To Paradise (2022), Yanagihara's second novel of sf interest, complexly (and complicatedly) weaves together the implications of its three separate narratives: an Alternate History rendering of a nineteenth century America free of Religious bigotry about Sex, set in New York; a somewhat different Alternate History set in the 1980s, with an unnamed AIDS Pandemic devastating the metropolis, all experienced through the eyes of the exiled heir to the throne of a mutilated Hawaii; and a distant Near Future America whose response to twenty-first Pandemics has been savagely Dystopian. The cumulative effect is of a portrait of the age we are becoming. [JC]

Hanya K Yanagihara

born Los Angeles, California: 20 September 1974

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