SBP Blog

Celebrating our women writers for Women's History Month

Michael Palmer - Monday, March 02, 2020

Over the years Stone Bridge Press has had the honor of publishing several books by women writers, and in celebration of Women's History Month here are a few (not all) books by fantastic women writers we recommend!

I wait for the Moon: 100 Haiku of Momoko Kuroda by Momoko Kuroda, Translated by Abigail Friedman

The first work in English devoted entirely to this modern haiku master, with 100 poems plus commentary on the poet's life, social context, form and technique. 

Momoko Kuroda (b. 1938) is a remarkable haiku spirit and a powerfully independent Japanese woman. The one hundred poems here—her first collection in English—show her evolution as a poet, her acute lyricism, and her engagement as a writer in issues central to modern Japan: postwar identity, nuclear politics, and Fukushima. Abigail Friedman's introduction and textual commentaries provide important background and superb insight into poetic themes and craft.

 

 

Amy’s Guide to Best Behavior in Japan: Do it Right and Be Polite! by Amy Chavez, Illustrated by Jun Hazuki

This illustrated guide to common courtesy, acceptable behavior, and manners is essential for any visitor to Japan. By knowing how to act in every situation you'll gain the respect of your hosts and in the end get even better service and enjoyment during your travels. Covered here are all the essentials—like travel, greetings, dining—plus subtle niceties like tone of voice, body language, cell phone usage, city vs. country styles, and attire (and what to do about your tattoos!).

Amy Chavez has lived in Japan for 25 years, and is proprietor of the Moooo! Bar & Cafe on Shiraishi Island in the Inland Sea, where she helps tourists with reservations, language support, and cultural guidance. She writes about cultural differences between Japan and the West for The Japan Times, Huffpo, and RocketNews24.

 


Japanese Girl at the Siege of Changchun: How I Survived China’s Wartime Atrocity by Homare Endo, Translated by Michael Brase

Over 150,000 innocents died of starvation in Changchun, northeastern China, after the end of WW2 when Mao's army laid siege during the Chinese Civil War. Japanese girl Homare Endo, then age 7, was trapped in Changchun with her family. After nomadic flight from city to city, Homare eventually returned to Japan and a professional career. This is her eyewitness, at times haunting account of survival at all costs and of unspeakable scenes of barbarity that the Chinese government today will not acknowledge.

Homare Endo was born in China in 1941 and arrived in Japan in 1953. She is a Doctor of Science, director of the Center of International Relations at Tokyo University and Graduate School of Social Welfare, and professor emeritus at the University of Tsukuba. She has written several books on China, Chinese politics, and Japan–China relations.

 

 

Kanji (the most complicated Japanese script) may look daunting, but the characters are full of fun and life—if you know how to decode them. Crazy for Kanji provides a "map" to orient people by examining characters and compounds from every angle. Passionate and playful, the book is filled with enlightening discussions, fun facts, photos, exhibits, anecdotes, and games. It’s a reference source, workbook, and entertaining read all in one. Novices and kanji experts alike will find treasures in its pages.

Eve Kushner of Berkeley, California, is the creator of Joy o' Kanji (www.joyokanji.com). With this lifelong project, she is writing one essay about every Joyo kanji—that's 2,136 essays!

 

Green Tea Living: A Japan-Inspired Guide to Eco-friendly Habits, Health, and Happiness by Toshimi A. Kayaki Miyuki Matsuo

Starting with the notion that some traditions—like drinking green tea for health and mental acuity—embody timeless wisdom for living, Toshimi A. Kayaki offers dozens of wise old Japanese ways for improving how you look and feel while respecting nature and the environment. Carry your own pair of chopsticks, wear five-toe socks, eat salty plums, use rice water as floor wax, do “eco-laundry,” and always set aside 10 percent for savings . . . you get the idea. By leading a “green tea life,” you’ll help yourself and the planet.
 
Toshimi A. Kayaki, born and raised in Japan, now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and has published twenty-two books on women’s and cross-cultural issues.

 

Kyoto Machiya Restaurant Guide: Affordable Dining in Traditional Townhouse Spaces by Judith Clancy

Machiya, or townhouses, are traditional wooden dwellings in Kyoto that evoke the elegance and culture of Japan's old capital with their architectural details, beautiful gardens, and intimate rooms. Many have been converted into restaurants to create unforgettable dining experiences. Enjoying healthy food in a historic, traditional Kyoto environment is a rare pleasure. Here are some 130 restaurant listings (food, decor, hours, addresses, prices, maps, and index) and a photographic guide to machiya architecture, culture, and aesthetics.

Judith Clancy has lived in Kyoto since 1970, writing and teaching about Japanese culture. Her books describe the many traditions of Kyoto, including music, tea ceremony, and ikebana, and she acts as a guide and interpreter for groups and workshops. She is also the author of Kyoto Machiya Restaurant Guide, Kyoto Gardens, Kyoto: City of Zen, and The Alluring World of Geiko and Maiko. She lives in a 120-year-old converted weaving studio in Nishijin, Kyoto's weaving and dyeing district.

 


My Year of Dirt and Water: Journal of a Zen Monk’s Wife in Japan by Tracy Franz

In February 2004, when her American husband, a recently ordained Zen monk, leaves home to train for a year at a centuries-old Buddhist monastery, Tracy Franz embarks on her own year of Zen. An Alaskan alone—and lonely—in Japan, she begins to pay attention.

My Year of Dirt and Water is a record of that journey. Allowed only occasional and formal visits to see her cloistered husband, Tracy teaches English, studies Japanese, and devotes herself to making pottery. Her teacher instructs her to turn cup after cup—creating one failure after another. Past and present, East and West intertwine as Tracy is twice compelled to return home to Alaska to confront her mother’s newly diagnosed cancer and the ghosts of a devastating childhood.

Revolving through the days, My Year of Dirt and Water circles hard questions: What is love? What is art? What is practice? What do we do with the burden of suffering? The answers are formed and then unformed—a ceramic bowl born on the wheel and then returned again and again to dirt and water.

Originally from Alaska, Tracy Franz lived in Japan for ten years. She now resides in Nova Scotia with her husband—Soto Zen priest Koun Franz—and their two children. Her essays have most recently appeared in Lotus Petals in the Snow: Voices of Canadian Buddhist Women (Sumeru, 2016), Lion’s Roar, and Tricycle Magazine. Find her at tracyfranz.com.

 

Oh, Tama!: A Mejiro Novel by Mieko Kanai, Translated by Tomoko Aoyama, Translated by Paul McCarthy 

Oh, Tama! describes the haphazard lives of Natsuyuki Kanemitsu and his loosely connected circle of dysfunctional acquaintances and family. Natsuyuki is prevailed upon by his friend Alexandre, an occasional porn-film actor, to adopt the very pregnant cat Tama, who gives birth and remains throughout the novel as a silent observer of her human hosts. Further complications arise surrounding the mystery of who the father of Alexandre's sister Tsuneko's unborn child is, with Tsuneko (a bar owner) happy to collect money from anyone who may be responsible.

One of these possible dads turns out to be Natsuyuki's half-brother, abandoned and forgotten long ago as easily as Tama has parted with her kittens. A "fast and comedic novel," Oh, Tama! plays out against a backdrop of cramped apartments and cheap food and drink where everyone seems to have an opinion on film, photography, and fashionable French art theory. It is part of the author's esteemed series of "Mejiro" novels, named after the northwest area of Tokyo that so richly informs their urbanity and outlook.

Mieko Kanai (b. 1947) is a prominent Japanese writer and essayist, and an admired reviewer of books and film, known for her scathing and perceptive wit. She read widely in fiction and poetry from an early age. In 1968 she received the Gendaishi Techo Prize for poetry. In 1979 she received the Izumi Kyoka Prize, and in 1988 the current work, Oh, Tama! (Tama ya), received the Women's Literature Award. She has a devoted following in Japan and has built up her own world of fiction with a sensual style.

 

 
The word sensei in Japanese literally means “one who came before,” but that’s not what Janet Pocorobba’s teacher wanted to be called. She used her first name, Western-style. She wore a velour Beatles cap and leather jacket, and she taught foreigners, in English, the three-stringed shamisen, an instrument that fell out of tune as soon as you started to play it. Vexed by the music and Sensei’s mission to upend an elite musical system, Pocorobba, on the cusp of thirty, gives up her return ticket home to become a lifelong student of her teacher. She is eventually featured in Japan Cosmo as one of the most accomplished gaijin, “outside people,” to play the instrument.

Janet Pocorobba’s involvement with Japan includes two decades of performing Japanese arts on two continents. She plays shamisen, the three drums of the kabuki orchestra (kotsuzumi, otsuzumi, and shimedaiko), and Japanese dance. In Tokyo Janet was a features writer and editor for Metropolis, Tokyo’s #1 English-language magazine. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, The Writer, Harvard Review, [Nixes Mate], Kyoto Journal, Indiana Review, and others. She is currently associate professor and associate director of the Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University.

Janet lives in Vermont and can be reached at janetpocorobba.com


The Little Exile by Janette Arakawa

After Pearl Harbor, little Marie Mitsui, who considers herself a typical American girl, sees her life of school and playing with friends in San Francisco totally upended. Her family and 120,000 others of Japanese ancestry are forcibly relocated to internment camps far from home. Living conditions in the camps are harsh, life after camp is similarly harsh, but in the end, as she and her family make their way back to San Francisco, Marie sees hope for the future. Told from a child’s perspective, The Little Exile deftly conveys Marie’s innocence, wonder, fear, and outrage.

Though names and some details have been altered, this is the author's own life story. She believes that underlying everyone's experience, no matter how varied, are threads of humanity that bind us all. It is her hope that readers of all ages are able to find those threads in her story.

Jeanette S. Arakawa was born in San Francisco, California to Japanese immigrants. Between 1942 and 1945, during World War II, she was part of a diaspora that took her to Stockton, California, Rohwer, Arkansas, and Denver, Colorado.

She returned to San Francisco in 1946. Jeanette and her husband, Kiyoto, have two sons and a grown granddaughter. Over the years Jeanette's devotion to educational issues has permitted her to share her experiences in the classroom as well as other forums. She continues to be an active member of her temple. Writing, line dancing, taiko (Japanese drumming), and singing occupy the spaces available in her busy life. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

 


Yoga Heart: Lines on the Six Perfections by Leza Lowitz

These sixty poems on the Buddha's six "perfections," or qualities for a meaningful life—generosity, kindness, patience, joy, stillness, wisdom—were written over years of yoga and meditation practice, inspired by Tibetan Heart Yoga, nature, Buddhism, Osho, Tantra, ancient Japanese and Chinese poetry, Rumi, Kabir, haiku, love, and life. They seek to capture a journey from the physical body to the subtle body to the light body, until the heart bursts open into the beautiful radiance of divine energy in the world.

Leza Lowitz’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, Huffington Post, Shambhala Sun, Asian Jewish Life, and Best Buddhist Writing of 2011. She has published over seventeen books, including the APALA Award–winning YA novel Jet Black and the Ninja Wind, which she co-wrote with her husband, the bestselling Yoga Poems: Lines to Unfold By, and her memoir Here Comes the Sun: A Journey to Adoption in 8 Chakras. Leza, an American, lives in Japan with her husband, Shogo Oketani. You can visit her online at www.lezalowitz.com.

 

Womansword: What Japanese Words Say About Women by Kittredge Cherry

Thirty years after its first publication, Womansword remains a timely, provocative work on how words reflect on female roles in modern Japan. Short, lively essays offer linguistic, sociological, and historical insight into issues central to the lives of women everywhere: identity, girlhood, marriage, motherhood, work, sexuality, and aging. A new introduction shows how things have—and haven't—changed.
 
Kittredge Cherry studied in Japan on a Rotary International Journalism scholarship at Kobe College and International Christian University in Tokyo. She has written about Japan for such publications as Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal. Her popular “Cool Words” column was a regular feature at the Asahi Weekly from 2006-09. She lives in Los Angeles, CA.

 

 

 


 


 


 



 


 


 


 

 


 


 

 


 

 


 


 


 


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