About

The third person bio

Kaya Oakes’ third book, a hybrid memoir/ethnography/theological rant, Radical Reinvention, was published by Counterpoint Press in 2012. Her previous nonfiction book, Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture, was published by Henry Holt in 2009 and was selected as a San Francisco Chronicle notable book. She’s also the author of a collection of poetry, Telegraph, which received the Transcontinental Poetry Prize from Pavement Saw Press. Her  In 2002, Kaya co-founded Kitchen Sink Magazine, which received the Utne Independent Press Award for Best New Magazine in 2003. She edited and wrote for Kitchen Sink until it ended its print run in 2007. Currently, she writes about faith and feminism for Commonweal, Killing the Buddha, America, and other magazines and websites.  Since 1999, she’s taught writing at the University of California, Berkeley. She earned an MFA in creative writing at Saint Mary’s College. Kaya has been the recipient of teaching fellowships from the Mellon Faculty Institute and the Bay Area Writing Project, as well as writing awards from the Academy of American Poets.

The first person bio

I was born at 6:36 PM on January 15, 1971, at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley, California. My parents had been expecting and hoping for a boy, and had wanted to name me Martin Luther King Junior Oakes, but I turned out female and thus my birth certificate was left blank for several weeks until they made up their minds. Rumor has it my mother went into labor in a MacDonald’s. My older siblings, Elizabeth, Robert, and Christine, are all interesting and successful people who only resented my intrusion into the family a little bit. When I was six, my younger sister Victoria was born and I confess did put glue into her hair a few times. My late father Leo liked to go on road trips, and I was hauled along with the family all the way to Alaska and Northern Canada in a VW Van named “Old Dog” while I was still in diapers. In Yellowknife, Yukon Territories, at a hospital normally frequented by men recovering from mining accidents, I was brought in because of a severe allergic reaction to mosquito bites. These kinds of adventures were repeated throughout my childhood.

Fast forward twenty or so years. After an unsuccessful stint at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, I moved back to my beloved hometown of Oakland, worked at Doctor Comics and Mister Games, joined a noise band called The Limbic System, and cut off my purple dredlocks. After college I worked at Viz Comics, went to grad school to study poetry, and started teaching writing. In 1997, when I was sullenly pushing cash register buttons at Black Oak Books, I met a nice guy who plays drums. We’ve been together ever since. After several years in adjunct limbo my part time job in the College Writing Programs at UC Berkeley became full time, and I’m now a Lecturer with a capital L.That basically means I don’t have tenure.

In 2002, some friends and I who had worked together on an independent feminist magazine called Fabula somehow got the idea that we’d like to try putting out a magazine again after Fabula imploded, and Kitchen Sink Magazine was born. That ran for five years. In 2007, after sending it into approximately 200 poetry book competitions, my book Telegraph won something called the Transcontinental Poetry Prize from Pavement Saw Press. The same year, Kitchen Sink got screwed by its distributor and ceased to exist. And I signed a contract to write a nonfiction book about indie culture that later got titled Slanted and Enchanted. While I was promoting that book, I started writing another book (I hate sleep). It’s called Radical Reinvention, and it came out in the summer of 2012.

Today I live in Oakland, continue to teach writing at UC Berkeley, contribute articles to lots of places. and tend to find myself reading six books at the same time. I only update my blog sporadically, but I do enjoy hearing from the occasional reader and doing readings and events now and then. I am a little bit of a recluse, but apparently that adds to the mystique.


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