Known best for her 2004, Newbery Medal and Asian/Pacific American Literature Award-winning children's novel, Kira-Kira, she also penned such acclaimed young adult works as Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam and The Thing About Luck.
After dropping out of high school, she earned a journalism degree from the University of Southern California and went on to study at both Columbia University and the University of Pittsburgh.
She received the United States National Book Award for her 2013 young adult novel, The Thing About Luck.
Born into a Japanese-American family, she grew up in, Illinois, Georgia, Arkansas, and California. She later raised a child named Sammy.
She and My Happy Life novelist Lydia Millet were both recipients of the prestigious PEN literary award.