David Mas Masumoto

Portrait David Mas Masumoto
© Hartwig Klappert

David Mas Masumoto was born in California in 1954.  A third generation farmer of Japanese descent, he studied Sociology at the University of California in Berkeley, Community Development at the University of California in Davis, and also attended the International University in Tokyo, Japan.  He has worked as a journalist and published articles in many newspapers, among them ‘USA Today’ and ‘Los Angeles Times’, and currently writes for ‘The Fresno Bee’. He and his father grow peaches, grapes and raisins on an organic farm in Del Rey, south of Fresno.

In 1984 his first literary work, ‘Silent Strength’, appeared, bearing the influence of American classical writers such as Henry Thoreau and Walt Whitman as well as the sway of Buddhist traditions.  Two years later he received the James Clavell Japanese American National Literacy Award. His successful book ‘Epitaph for a Peach’ (1995) depicts with lyrical flow and cool humour the joys and travails of fruit-growing. It deals in similar ways with weed and insect plagues, the imponderability of the weather and the social situation of farm labourers, as well as with the reality of the market. The book received the Julia Child Cookbook and the San Francisco Review of Books Critic’s Awards and was a finalist for the James Beard Foundation Food Writing Award.

‘Harvest Son: Planting Roots in American Soil’ (1998) is an account of the author’s own family history and farm.  Its arc spans from the immigration of his grandparents at the turn of the century via their experiences as settlers and later internees when the entire family was imprisoned in relocation camps for Japanese immigrants during World War II to the time of rapid developments and upheavals in modern agriculture. The author continues his dextrous verbal homage to the California clod in his most recent books, ‘Four Seasons in Five Senses: Things Worth Savoring’ (2003) and ‘Letters to the Valley’ (2004).

Masumoto is a member of several local foundations and societies devoted to the preservation and improvement of quality of life of California and the farmer families living there. He conceived and curated the exhibition ‘Country Voices, Three Generations of Family Farmers’, which has been shown in the Fresno Metropolitan Museum and in the Japanese American National Museum.  He has been on the Board of Directors of the Irvine Foundation since 2002 and lives with his father, his wife and their two children on their farm.

© international literature festival berlin