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Mari Yoshihara giving a speech

An American studies professor in the College of Arts, Languages and Letters (CALL) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa has won multiple awards in Japan for her book, Dearest Lenny: Letters from Japan and the Making of the World Maestro. The Japanese version of Professor Mari Yoshihara’s critically acclaimed work based on personal letters penned by and to world-renowned musician Leonard Bernstein launched in October 2022.

The original book was published by Oxford University Press in 2019. Yoshihara, who authored the Japanese version herself, landed three distinguished honors; Kawai Hayao Prize for Stories, Japan Essayist Club award and Music Pen Club Japan award (publications in classical music category). Yoshihara joins Hawaiʻi-born artist Bruno Mars, who also received a Music Pen Club Japan award in 2022. The coveted distinction recognizes works that contribute to enhancing musical culture.

“Mari Yoshihara is an internationally acclaimed scholar whose vibrant scholarship and academic profile greatly enhances CALL as a college and UH Mānoa as a university,” said CALL Dean Peter Arnade. “I am thrilled her recent book has garnered such acclaim and netted such prestigious awards in Japan. We are lucky to have a scholar of Dr. Yoshihara’s prominence on our faculty.”

Mari Yoshihara accepting her award

Dearest Lenny interweaves the story of an intimate relationship between Bernstein, indisputably one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century, and two unknown Japanese individuals. The book features deeply expressive letters that touch upon political, economic, social and cultural history of U.S-Japan relations during the Cold War, dynamics of the arts and the state, and politics of gender and sexuality.

“Dr. Yoshihara is not only a top-notch scholar but also stands out as an English-Japanese bilingual author. I read her work in both languages and found it very inspiring,” said CALL Associate Dean Kimi Kondo-Brown.

Yoshihara joined the UH Mānoa faculty in 1997 after earning a BA from the University of Tokyo and MA and PhD from Brown University. She specializes in U.S. cultural history, U.S.-Asia relations, women’s, gender and sexuality studies, and literary and cultural studies. She is a prolific author of many publications such as Embracing the East: White Women and American Orientalism (Oxford, 2003), Musicians from a Different Shore: Asians and Asian Americans in Classical Music (Temple, 2007), and a number of books and articles in Japanese.

In 2020, she received the UH Board of Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Research award. Yoshihara’s teaching excellence earned her a UH Mānoa Peter V. Garrod Distinguished Graduate Mentoring Award in 2007.

She is scheduled to release a bilingual memoir in Japan this fall.

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