A third-generation Japanese Canadian, Tanaka was born and raised in Toronto. She graduated from Queen's University with an Honours B.A. before completing her M.A. in comparative literature at the University of Toronto. For thirty years she has been in the Canadian publishing business. As the fiction editor for young adults at Groundwood Books since 1984, she has edited twelve award-winning books. An author and translator herself, Tanaka has written over twenty books, mostly children's nonfiction about historical events, archeology, and the environment, that have garnered her attention and awards. She resides near Kingston, Ontario.
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