The book-launch party is in the works!

logoI know it’s early, but if you’re in Boston, please save the date for a very special Four Stories/Good Shufu book-launch party on FRIDAY, JUNE 26th at the Middlesex Lounge in Cambridge.

I’ll be reading from the book and am crazy thrilled that Julia Glass, Michael Lowenthal​, and Alysia Abbot will be reading with me!

SHUFUJacketFinal3.20.15As usual, there will be nothing for sale, but there will be free drinks, funny questions, and, if guest host Steven Lee Beeber​ gets drunk enough, random moments of karaoke.

More info coming soon…

Among mixed marriages in Japan, US husbands outnumber US wives 6 to 1

Nippon.com and the Japan Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare report, in 2013 there were 21,488 international marriages in Japan (1 in 30 of all marriages). Of those, 6,046 were between Japanese women and foreign men, and of these, 19.2%, or about 1,161, involved American men marrying Japanese women.

On the other side, 15,442 marriages involved Japanese men, out of which 1.2%, or about 185, involved an American wife.

So in Japan, marriages between American men and Japanese women outweigh those between Japanese men and American women by a rate of 600%.

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(Graphic from “Vital Statistics in JAPAN -The latest trends,” by the Japan Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare.)

No wonder the shogun and I sometimes attract stares when I try to give him a kiss in public!

Hand soup at the latest Tokyo-area Dean & Deluca

Imagine my delight when I learned that Dean & Deluca was opening a location at the posh mall in the suburb just outside of Tokyo where we live. I’ve had visions of spending afternoons over cappuccino, feeling like I’m squarely back in the US.

Today, the mini spent a rare afternoon at hoikuen, Japanese daycare, and I finally had a chance to bring my laptop and get some work done over pastry and coffee. If I squinted my eyes so I couldn’t really see the Japanese writing on the menu and the line of straight-haired customers, and let the sound of the espresso machine in the background wash over me, I really did feel like I was back in the American urban cafe culture I love.

That is, until I got up to wash my hands and saw this:

DeanAndDelucaHandSoup

The Cover Arrives!

So excited that the book cover has arrived–and so thankful to the wonderful design team at Putnam and to my editor for making it so great.

When I first saw it, I had a moment of pause, thinking: Oh, the disheveled hair! The drooping waistline!

Now, after two+ weeks of the mini not sleeping, not eating, and not sitting still for a moment, I realize: Swap the kimono for some frayed yoga clothes, and it’s the spitting image of me–on a good day.

But seriously, I’m thrilled with how seamlessly Putnam has captured both the Japan theme and the fish-out-of-water sensibility of the book.

SHUFUJacketFinal3.20.15

Thank you Putnam; Sara, my editor; and Rachel, my agent, for all your help and guidance during the design process! Feeling proud to have my name on such a lovely cover.

The Older New Parent’s 3 Main Food Groups: Caffeine, Ibuprofen, & Wine

I know we got insanely lucky with the mini, lucky I was able to conceive naturally after my 45th birthday, lucky she was born totally healthy and amazing. So god knows I’m not complaining here. But let me complain for a second.

It seems she’s hitting her terrible two’s a year early. I suppose I could be grateful for her advanced development, like some parents are when their kids walk early. (“She’s only one! And she’s already in her terrible two’s!”) Instead, I feel like my head has been blown off and I’m walking around with shards on top of my neck.

Two weeks past her 1st birthday, and she’s terrorizing us. In Japan, they use the term “house-[something]” for a family phenomenon, like “the house-dog” (“uchi no enu”) where we would say “the family dog,” and it’s clear that the mini has suddenly become…the house terrorist.

She was sick last week, and while thankfully she is no longer ill, she has held fast to a little peccadillo she developed when she had a fever: insisting on being rocked to sleep between the hours of 2-5am. And then being rocked while she’s asleep, too. So she wakes up and cries around 2, and then after I rock her and her breathing slows and that peaceful half-smile of slumber has stolen across her face, I start to bend over the crib to put her down. And she immediately tenses her entire little body, limbs stretched in rigid protest even though she is seemingly still asleep, and the minute she touches down on the soft mattress of the crib, she is up and wailing the saddest–and loudest–song of woe. So that’s how we spend our nights now. Like a Mobius strip of rocking and refusal.

This has gone on for a week, and this morning we were out walking to do errands and I looked down at my torso and I realized I had become one of those mothers I always swore I’d never be: the kind who walks around with some kind of unidentified–but clearly bio-hazardous–substance strewn across her shirt. What bothered me even more is that I couldn’t muster the energy even to care. I just shifted the lining of my coat to cover it for a second and then left it there all day.

It’s now late afternoon and the mini has finally gone down for one of the naps she has also been refusing to take all week. I’m coughing and sneezing and exhausted and so tired I couldn’t eat today, once again fueled mainly by my new three food groups: caffeine; ibuprofen; and, once dinner-time hits, wine. I’m craving sleep and a nap, and my knees and back and my right hip are killing me from the baby carrier. But I’m also 47 and my baby is just past 1, and I want to be around for her when she gets older. I want to be on the other end of the phone line for her when she is in her 40s and she has a child who has momentarily derailed her. So instead of sleeping, I’ll wipe the bio-hazard off my shirt, roll out my yoga mat, and try to keep my aging body as young as possible. All while keeping my eye on the monitor, of course, and praying with all I have that the house terrorist doesn’t wake up from her nap.

A Summer ’15 Barnes & Noble Discover Pick

THE GOOD SHUFU has just been chosen for a Summer 2015 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection! (The 2015 Summer selections haven’t been posted yet on their site, but there is info there about the Spring 2015 selections and the Discover Great Writers Selection program in general.)

So very thankful to Barnes & Noble, and so very, very honored! Stay tuned to see the book featured in their bookstores, online, in their Nook store in June.

The Good Shufu: Finding Love, Self & Home on the Far Side of the World

Later-Life Parenting, TV, & the World’s Youngest Democrat

The mini, 11 months old now, has a new favorite activity: clapping. She spends a lot of time each day clapping along to her musical toy cell phone. (Yes, we bought her a toy cell phone. Actually, two, but that’s another story.)

The other day in our living room in Japan, CNN on was on satellite TV, playing in the background while the mini and I went about our morning routine. I like to leave CNN on sometimes during the day so I can hear English–it makes me miss home a little less. I know some experts say children shouldn’t even look at any screens until they are at least two years old. But I think the extra exposure to English for her and my need to stay sane and rooted in my own culture as an expat in Japan, both outweigh any argument against her seeing a screen. As older parents, we tend to sweat the small stuff a little less, I think. (Thus, the two toy cell phones, one could argue…)

In any case, that day CNN was showing live coverage of the State of the Union address in the US. When Obama was introduced, Congress burst into applause. The mini enthusiastically clapped right along.

So proud that she already identifies as a Democrat.

Does Being in a Mixed Partnership Make You More Open-Minded?

For those in mixed-marriages/partnerships: Do you think being in a multicultural union makes you more open-minded about race/ethnicity?

It seems from how the media covers mixed partnerships, the assumption is that those of us who are in one are somehow less influenced by racial stereotypes, but I’m interested in the ways this both is and isn’t true. For instance, of course I love the shogun and see him first and foremost as a man and not a Japanese person, but I still hold certain beliefs about him based on his ethnicity and know he does the same about me (don’t get me started on his theories about ear wax, sweat glands, and westerners…), and my guess is that anyone growing up in this world is never fully outside of cultural beliefs about race and/or ethnicity.

Would love to know your thoughts and experiences!