SBP Blog

Foreword Reviews on 'My Year of Dirt and Water: Journal of a Zen Monk's Wife in Japan' by Tracy Franz

Thomas Joel - Friday, May 04, 2018

Our good friends at Foreword Reviews just wrote an illuminating book review of one of our upcoming titles, My Year of Dirt and Water by Tracy Franz, a memoir that "offers the singular pleasure of a story that obscures but is not obscured." Read the full review below. 

One of the first things Tracy Franz learns as a yakimono deshi, an apprentice of traditional Japanese pottery, is that “it
is the nothingness in the middle that determines the true size of the vessel.” Her memoir, My Year of Dirt and Water,
expands this tenet over the calendar year Franz and her spouse spend separated in Japan when he enters a Zen
monastery to train as a priest.
Although Franz had lived in Japan roughly four years prior to her spouse, Koun, entering the monastery, a year apart
in this familiar foreign country is an entirely different proposition. Without Koun, Franz’s attention is drawn to the space
in her life and the ways that space is variously empty or altered by routine, obligation, relationship, practice, and
Throughout the memoir, Franz matches restraint with reflexiveness, crafting a narrative equally filled with the luminous
particular and the telling omission. Death and impermanence—Zen’s secret heart—are very present. As the year
unfolds, absence becomes a type of expansiveness as Franz identifies and learns the texture and shape of her
loneliness. While being out of context becomes a pleasure for her, it also draws her attention to the subtle differences
between refusal, acceptance, and letting go.
As a traveler, Franz’s reconciliation between her homes in the US and Japan plays an important role in her self-
awareness; she does not objectify or tokenize either place. She always homes her experience in the personal, and as
such, “the familiar becomes foreign; the foreign becomes familiar.”
My Year of Dirt and Water incorporates Zen, pottery, living abroad, and Franz’s past and present with skillful delicacy,
connecting these elements as if by analogy. Traversing territory defined by lack, My Year of Dirt and Water offers the
singular pleasure of a story that “obscures but is not obscured.”


Like our blog? Please share it!


Subscribe to the SBP Mailing List

New Releases

Amy’s Guide to Best Behavior in Japan

Going to Japan? This unfussy modern guide guarantees you keep it polite and get it right!

Easy and Fun Katakana

Learn the second key Japanese syllabary from every angle: reading, writing, and real-world examples.

Oh, Tama!

A deeply eccentric novel about lives and connections—and a cat of course—in 1980s Tokyo: witty, offbeat, and strangely profound.

The Fourth String

Two women. Two cultures. One music.

Tag Cloud

fred schodt evil journal of a zen monk writing holden caufield Art/Design Year of the Dog wife how to order in japan seppuku fantasy literature Korea tokyo book journal of a zen monk's wife mieko kanai kyoto sensei and me awards buddhist polite gallery awa oh tama book signing Anime/Manga/Comics benjamin franklin award Japan takuma sminkey traditional kyodo news henry kiyama japanese customs ritual what do in japan award the japan times buddhist swastika hate suicide amys guide to best behavior in japan purification Spring Festival frank beyer japanese people illustration year of zen why we write podcast otakuusa learning in japan alan brill publicity new york events Tokyo Olympics japanese books in english tea garden hiroaki sato memoir, tracy franz, zen monk, buddhist japanese culture buddhist symbols amys guide to bes tbehavior in japan Japanese art non-fiction japan culture ancient symbols Chinese Astrology yukio mishima religion center of east asian studies travel to japan manners journal author signing japan trip stone bridge press shaimsen poetry of consciousness hitler living in japan World War II osamu dazai brad hawley new books tomoko aoyama kansuke naka learning shamisen four immigrants dark horse IBPA japanese music Second World War asia shamisen performance damian flanagan welton gaddy Chinese history graphic novels buddhism PEN AWARD haibun japanese instruments suehiro maruo behavior tourist astro boy internment Translation japanese 2020 Olympics the silver spoon China Alexandra Johnson asian review of books bowing in japan no longer human Travel in the woods of memory drinking in japan china history hitlers cross politics and prose monk wife sensei memoir writing japanese instrument jared cook podcast expat musical The Colorado Review journal of a zen monks wife in japan walt disney traditional japanese instrumenet eating in japan state of belief anime pottery japanese travel lions roar william f sibley eastern and western philosophy ningen shikkaku peace hippocampus magazine VIZ History author event Christianity koto huffpost student teacher manga paul mccarthy gaijinpot Chinese culture zen monk in japan foreword reviews author japan food japanese drunk Children's Literature foreigner in japan washington dc diymfa japan vacation books frederik schodt Spirituality diary traditional japanese instrument review min kahng the buddhist swastika will eisner book reviews zen tracy franz Christianity in Japan michael emmerich japan book review Poetry t.k. nakagaki 1960's Japan japan books literary review nazi giajin the fourth string a memoir of sensei and me comic history zazen japan behavior classic amy chavez japan restaurant announcement travel Japan japan travel jun hazuki huffington post forewrod reviews indies book tour dazai the japan society osaka monk matcha ex pat literature Chiune Sugihara my year of dirt and water black jack new york classic japanese literature nichi bei weekly, naomi hirarahara ancient symbol astrology visitor publishing hooked cross verticle 2019 kinokuniya event american shamisen gaijin tea book talk Japanese literature japan guide buddhist priest book blurb danica davidson japanese books world literature today japanese translation japanese cutlure Language monks wife Chinese New Year new release stone bridge cafe best behavior in japan literature Olympics leonard koren how to travel in japan nara the millions author tour Korea photography the asian review of books book reading mark gibeau how to japanese etiquette japan custom WWII a memoir Okinawan literature World War Two japanese classic etiquette book hoarding gaijin pot Basho's Narrow Road Japanese aesthetics tk nakagaki event the fourth string Asian Studies Basho holocaust benjamin franklin awards 1960s Korea shamisen Nikolas Bunton university of chicago blurb disney book review alan moore osamu tezuka japan memoir book publicity photography lesley university japan etiquette comics swastika a mejiro novel Culture a memoir of sensei and me chinese comics foreword indies shun medoruma Shoah catcher in the rye a shameful life Children's Books journal' monks wife tricycle magazine memoir manga biography pacific rim review of books AAS ibpa publishing university japanese book book award zen monk wife finalist understandind china through comics janet pocorobba haiku memior rachel manley bookstore janet pocrobba gratitude in japan japan today literary prize performance japanese craft koun japanese bath Interview green tea reviews juddhism UCLA japan book zen monk manji Coming of Age Day interfaith the hidden writer Japanese holidays Ukiyo-e diy mfa guide jing liu donald keene