James D. Houston is the author of eight novels, most recently BIRD OF ANOTHER HEAVEN, published in 2007 by Alfred Knopf, and now available in trade paperback from Anchor Books. His recent SNOW MOUNTAIN PASSAGE, described in The Washington Post as "a dignified, powerful narrative of our shared American destiny," was cited by The Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Los Angeles Times as one of the Year's Best Books. Among his several nonfiction works is FAREWELL TO MANZANAR, co-authored with his wife, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston. A true account of her family's experience during and after the World War Two internment, it is in a 67th printing from Bantam Books and a standard work in schools and colleges across the country.

Jim, Wally Stegner and Al Young, Uncommon Touch reception, April 1989He was born in San Francisco, where his parents settled after migrating west from Texas during the Depression of the l930s. At San Jose State College he studied drama and met Jeanne, whose parents had reached California from the opposite direction, crossing the ocean from Japan. In his writings, as in his personal life, these histories have intermingled. From his coastal vantage point, he has been able to look both ways, eastward across the continent, and farther west, toward the shores and islands of the Asia/Pacific region.

Jim and Jeanne were married in Honolulu in 1957, and from there moved to England while he served for three years as Information Officer with a Tactical Fighter-Bomber Wing. In l959 his first published story appeared in the London literary journal, GEMINI. Another early effort won that year's U.S.Air Force Short Story Contest.

After extensive travel in Europe - to Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Scotland, Scandinavia, and the Soviet Union - he returned home to pursue an M.A. in American Literature at Stanford. He studied with Wallace Stegner, critic Irving Howe, editor Malcolm Cowley, and the Irish short story master, Frank O'Connor. Four years later he returned to Stanford as a Stegner Writing Fellow. While there he sold his first novel to Dial Press, and completed his second, GIG, which won the Joseph Henry Jackson Award for Fiction.

Jim and Jeanne, Fakarava AtollSince 1962 he and Jeanne have lived in Santa Cruz, within view of Monterey Bay, where they raised their three children, Corinne, Joshua and Gabrielle. For several years he made his living as a musician, teaching classical and folk guitar, and playing acoustic bass in a piano bar and in a bluegrass band. In l969, after teaching for a year at Stanford, he began teaching writing part-time at the University of California's Santa Cruz campus, an arrangement that continued for over twenty years, interspersed with visits to such campuses as the University of Hawai'i, the University of Oregon, the University of Michigan, and George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. In spring 2006 he returned to his alma mater, now San Jose State University, to hold the prestigious Lurie Chair, as Distinguished Visiting Professor in Creative Writing.

A frequent visitor to Hawai'i, he has traveled widely in the Pacific Basin, thanks in part to grants in the l980s from the U.S.I.S. Arts America program, which took him to South Korea, Japan, the Phillipines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. In 1993 he was invited to Okinawa to lecture at the University of the Ryukyus. In 1998 he served as a Smithsonian Lecturer for the Cunard Lines' South Pacific Cruise to the Marquesas, Fakarava, Tahiti, Tonga and Fiji. His often anthologized stories and essays have appeared in such publica tions as The New York Times, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, GQ, Ploughshares, The Utne Reader, The Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine, Honolulu, Manoa: A Pacific Journal of International Writing, and Zyzzyva (The Last Word: west coast writers and artists).


  • PEN Center USA West
  • Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Board of Directors
  • Kiriyama Book Prize, Center for the Pacific Rim, Advisory Council
  • California Legacy Series, Heyday Books, Berkeley, Advisory Board
  • California Council for Humanities, Consultant
  • Lost and Found Sound, National Public Radio, Consultant
  • Pacific Rim Film Festival, Santa Cruz, CA, Steering Committee
  • Tandy Beal Dance Company, Advisory Board
  • Literature Alive (Nevada City, Calif.), Advisory Board
  • Aspen Writers Conference, 30th Anniversary Advisory Committee


"Two Views of Santa Cruz,"  on NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO's  Day-by-Day show, August 25, 2008.  This interview, edited by Rick Kleffl, features Jim Houston, Karen Joy Fowler, and artist Tom Killion. Listen here »

"Always on the Brink: Facing West from California," an interview in THE BLOOMSBURY REVIEW, Nov./Dec. 2007

"Layers of Insight Deepen Twin Tales of Hawai'i," Elinor Langer, PORTLAND OREGONIAN, April 1, 2007.

"Wild For the West," Dixie Reid, THE SACRAMENTO BEE, Sunday Scene, April 17, 2007

"A Family History Linked to Hawaii's Last King," Carmela Ciuraru, LOS ANGELES TIMES, April 28, 2007A Conversation with James D. Houston," REED Magazine, #59, San Jose State University, Spring 2006.

Annie Nakao, "Biographer is Attuned to Hawaiian Music," SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, Sunday "Style" section, Feb. 20, 2005.

An interview with Gail Tsukiyama,  in the online magazine, WATERBRIDGE REVIEW, November 2004. 

Profile and updated Autobiographical Essay, CONTEMPORARY AUTHORS, Volume 204. The Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan, 2003.

Caroyln See, "California Dreaming" (Snow Mountain Passage, review), THE WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD, Sunday, April l5, 200l.

Michelle Huneven, "Writer Visits the Tragic Fate of The Donner Party (interview), LOS ANGELES TIMES, May 22, 2001.

Ann Fabian, "Recounting a Piece of California History" (Snow Mountain Passage, review), CHICAGO TRIBUNE, Sunday, June 3, 200l.

Interview, RED WHEELBARROW, Vol. 1, # 1, (pp. 34-51), De Anza College, Cupertino, California, 2000.

Andrew Wingfield, "A Place on the Map, A Place in the Mind: James D. Houston's Doyle Trilogy," WESTERN AMERICAN LITERATURE, Vol. 32, #2, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, Summer l999.

Michael Kowalewski, "James D. Houston," UPDATING THE LITERARY WEST, Texas Christian University Press, Forth Worth, 1997.

Alan Cheuse, "Double Wonder: The Novelistic Achievement of James D. Houston," SAN FRANCISCO IN FICTION, edited by David Fine and Paul Skenazy, University of New Mexico Press, l995.

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