My Piece in Washington Post on how Writing & Giving Birth Have about Zero in Common

Excited to have my first piece in The Washington Post‘s “On Parenting” site, one of my favorite new columns. I originally titled the post “Let’s Keep Books & Babies Separate,” although it’s been renamed by On Parenting’s wonderful editor, Amy Joyce, to “Writing a book is like giving birth? No, not at all.”

As readers of the book will know, I end The Good Shufu before I give birth, so there is nothing in the memoir about the experience of actually having a baby in Japan.

I’m anticipating writing a bit about this in the next book (if, as my friends hear me say all the time, I can actually get the mini to sleep through the night so I can really start to write again), but here’s a sneak peak of what some of the experience was like and of why, in part, I believe that pushing out a book and pushing out a baby have about zero in common:

The pain of writers’ block has nothing—let me repeat: nothing—on the pain of childbirth. After 48 hours of contractions and then 8 hours of being chemically induced (again, with nary an epidural in sight), my baby still lodged inside me, my cervix stuck at 8 centimeters, I felt like I was being simultaneously drowned and lit afire from inside. The pain, quite simply, was inhuman. People say you forget the pain of childbirth, and I may not be able to conjure perfectly the intensity of the physical torment now, but I am still mystified, still scrambled from the inside, when I recall lying prone, legs hoisted, thrashing wildly, while my husband and a roomful of people in starched uniforms watched me lose touch with my sense of myself as human. And I was one of the lucky ones: if you look at childbirth throughout history and in most places today (or even just take into account my own age and medical history) I’m way more fortunate than most. After all, both my baby and I ended up totally healthy and fine.

See the full piece here at The Washington Post online.

I kissed my student. Then I married him.

Here’s a short video clip from my reading at the Tokyo launch party for The Good Shufu at Four Stories Tokyo.

It narrates what happened just before my first kiss with the shogun.

PS. Apologies for the background noise. We like the Four Stories events to be festive so we encourage eating and drinking even during the readings. The upside is the funny, tipsy questions we get at the end. The downside is the occasional background noise!

Marrying a Man Who Speaks a Different Language

I’ve loved and been deeply touched by the reader comments and reviews for The Good Shufu, and by the beyond-awesome support I’ve gotten from friends, family, and the book’s lovely readers. But I do have to admit that some people have expressed consternation by my admission that my husband still isn’t totally fluent in English and–most chagrin-inducing–that I haven’t made much headway in studying Japanese.

How can you be married to someone and not share a fluency? people tend to ask with some incredulity. (A related question involves how I can live in Japan and still be ambivalent about immersing myself in another culture, but this is a topic I’ll address another time.)

So here’s a little video clip that answers, at least in part, what I actually like about being married to someone who doesn’t always understand me, and whom I don’t always understand. (Sounds like a lot of partnerships, actually, doesn’t it? Even ones conducted in one native language…. A point I make more fully here.)

This video is from my reading at Newtonville Books. A truly awesome bookstore.

It’s the Tokyo Book Launch Bash for The Good Shufu!

September 27, 2015 | The Pink Cow | Roppongi

For the Tokyo celebration of the launch of The Good Shufu, join four gaijin-wife authors as they read a bit from their work, toast the launch of their new books, and make a little merry, in this special Four Stories Tokyo event, “Married to the Mob: Four Writers on Love, Travel & Life as a Gaijin Wife”! Featuring:

Plus guest host Barry Lancet, mystery writer & author of Tokyo Kill (Simon & Schuster), finalist for the Shamus Award!

Free for entry, and featuring the usual mingling, eating, and drinking–plus the Four Stories style of intellectual inquiry: Ask the best question, win a free drink! Plus, there will be book giveaways of each author’s new book!

Sunday, September 27
5-7pm, with music & open mic to follow!
The Pink Cow
5-5-1 Roppongi
Roi Bulding, B1F
Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0032

Feel Like Im Having My 15 Seconds of Travel Cool

2015-08-10 13:18:53 +00001Meet my new BFF, Nat. As in Nat Geo. As in National Geographic Traveler, who in their August/September 2015 issue has chosen The Good Shufu for the Travel Inspiration: Great New Reads.

They write,

Thirty-six-year-old “confirmed Bostonian” Tracy Slater ventures to Japan to teach English and falls in love with a 31-year-old Osaka salaryman. She weds him, becomes an ambivalent shufu, or housewife, and concocts this moving cross-cultural memoir.

I have to admit, I’m feeling very worldly right now. At least for today…

2015-08-10 13:18:22 +00001

On Marriage, Multiculturalism, & Compartmentalization

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Here’s a short but lovely review of The Good Shufu on the wonderful blog A Life with Subtitles, about multilingual marriage.  Following the review is an interview wherein I admit, sure I compartmentalize in my marriage, but I think that’s love (or at least marriage), not multicultural love per-se:

Q: I loved the exploration of gender norms and how you experienced them given your academic background in women’s studies. This was a fascinating theme throughout the book. Could you give those who haven’t yet read it a sneak preview of the ways you’ve incorporated more traditional gender roles into your lifestyle and how that’s been for you? 

Tracy: As I alluded to before, this is another paradox I never expected and that some people find surprising (as even I still do sometimes when I stop to think about it!). But the fact that my life as a “shufu” or housewife, or at least my life doing housewifely things, takes place in Japan, in a world so different from my own native one, provides a kind of barrier from what might otherwise be threatening to me, because it feels so contained by geographical and cultural distances from my native “home.”

Especially with Toru’s father, cooking dinner and serving him tea and bowing to him and cleaning up afterwards, as I used to do at least 3 nights a week when he was still alive, all felt like a role I was playing out of respect for someone very dear to me, but someone who nevertheless came from a very different place than the one that “made” me. I even feel this sometimes still with Toru (minus the bowing, of course, which is definitely where I draw the line in a marriage!). It’s a kind of compartmentalization that perhaps some might question. But it works.

And I think all marriages, all close relationships really, work in part because of a certain level of compartmentalization. We all, to some extent, try to bring the most harmonious parts of ourselves into our relationships in different ways and figure out how to express the other parts elsewhere or in other contexts.

I don’t really think the compartmentalization is the problem; it’s when you’re not honest or open about it that I think it becomes problematic usually. But even if this isn’t the case, and it’s just me who has welcomed a certain level of compartmentalization into my own home and marriage, I’m ok with that. Because as I said, it works, and I’m grateful for that.

Would love to know your thoughts on this or any of the other topics in the full interview. Oh, and there’s a link for a free giveaway of the book at the end of the interview!

PS. The pic at top has no real relation to the interview, but what better illustration of compartmentalization than this?

Boston Globe Reviews The Good Shufu!

It’s a thrill to see my hometown paper review my book about finding new homes without losing the old, noting its “heartbreaking, touching, and revelatory” scenes. They write, in part,

2015-07-19 18:52:07 +00001Tracy Slater’s memoir kicks off with this winning paragraph: “I met him in Kobe, Japan, in May 2004. Three weeks later, he told me he loved me. At least I thought that’s what he said.”

The author, known in the Boston area for creating the rollicking reading series Four Stories, traces her bicontinental romance as it unfolds over a decade, with flashbacks to her chaotic childhood in an upper-class Boston family. In this combination love story and travelogue, Slater exemplifies the adage: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

See the full review here. And thanks, Boston Globe!

Fill Your Beach Bag or City Tote with 3 Expat Stories


So thrilled to start my launch week off with this triple giveaway!

Originally posted on Melibelle in Tokyo:

Three Expat Women. Three international love stories. One book giveaway.

Summer is time to let loose in flip-flops and cut-off shorts, reading the books that will mark time.

Were you that student who backpacked through Thailand, or summered in The Cape?

Maybe you doubled-up on college courses and only daydreamed of such travel, instead, watching Brokedown Palace for the fifty-sixth time, while combing through Seventeen or Vogue, NatGeo, or Ms.

Maybe you still crave the expanse of wild summer.


Here is your chance to dig into 3 fabulous expat stories within these gorgeous memoirs:

Maybe you’ll win all three! Maybe you’ll buy them for your Kindle. Take them on the plane or read, beach side, or on lunch break, adjacent to spicy noodles.
Did you know–memoir doesn’t only belong to the women who stick around long enough to grow five necks or have lived twelve decades, through five wars, across all continents, and the…

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Boston Globe features The Good Shufu in their “Story Behind the Book” column

Thanks, Boston Globe, for this piece!

Tracy Slater and the journey least expected

Before she met her husband, Tracy Slater was “fiercely independent,” she says, an academic teaching literature and gender studies at Boston University’s College Behind Bars program. Then a Japanese businessman getting an executive MBA in Boston entered her life, she said, “and I just fell madly in love with him.”

When her future husband had to return to Osaka to care for his father in the wake of his mother’s sudden death, Slater found herself following him there. They married, and she became, suddenly, a shufu. The word means “housewife” in Japanese, but it doesn’t share the connotations most Americans bring to the word here. “It’s much more common in Japan,” Slater said, “that when a woman marries she quits her job, even if she doesn’t have kids.”

In “The Good Shufu: Finding Love, Self, and Home on the Far Side of the World,” Slater writes of her cultural dislocation in this new country and new role, but also of the joy it brought her.

“I worked really hard to plan this kind of life I thought would be my perfect life, and it got completely upended when I fell in love with this person,” she said. She added, “The most rewarding thing is realizing I feel more grounded, more in the right place, than I ever have in my life. The journey that I least expected took me to exactly the right place.”

One place it took her was to motherhood, as parent to a half-Japanese daughter. “She is part of my body,” Slater said, “and yet she is also an integral part of a culture that will, always and forever, see me as a foreigner.” As for her role as shufu, she said, “The title is ironic. I’m not a good shufu. I’m the worst housekeeper in the world.”

Slater will read Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Newtonville Books.

See full piece online