Monday, December 12, 2011

The Daily Mentor on She Writes

This week, I have the privilege to be the Guest Editor for She Writes, a virtual community, workplace, and emerging marketplace for women who write, with over 15,000 active members from all 50 states and more than 30 countries.  It gives me a chance to bring together two writing communities I love: She Writes and Goddard College, where I teach in the MFA in Creative Writing.  All this week, I will be hosting a feature called the Daily Mentor, with excerpts from essays about the writing life from my Goddard colleagues.  You can find the Daily Mentor on the main page at She Writes all this week, and you can start here for the series.

Here is a taste:

Years ago, someone asked me who my writing mentor was.  When I said I didn’t have one, she exclaimed, “Poor Bubbeleh!”  I had never studied writing, and was just beginning to teach in the Goddard Masters in Creative Writing program.  I had published a novel, was rewriting a memoir, and could not imagine what a mentor could offer me.
I know better now.  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Love is the Revolution

"You have such gifts, that are important...For a long time our minds have told us that maybe we are imagining things, that it's crazy to live according to what you want to give...This isn't crazy...This is how to live."

This video is perfect.  Check out the website, for more.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

One year

Today is the day I must choose different words.  To leave "my mother just passed away" behind and embrace "my mother died one year ago." It is something of a shock.  It is sudden.  Yet, there it is.  A new year.

This is the two of us, when she was the age that I am now.

I don't know what this day is called, the anniversary of a passing.  Today, please keep my family in your thoughts.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Pen Fall Literary Tasting

Come join me at Westbeth for an evening of readings, conversation and cocktails.

What should you be reading this season? Hear from Sarah McNally of McNally Jackson Books about the runaway hits, the beloved secrets, and the must-reads of the 2011 fall season. Then wander the halls of Westbeth to attend live readings in the homes of Westbeth residents by some of the most exciting authors writing today. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to explore the oldest and largest artist community located in the heart of bohemian West Village, repurposed by renowned architect Richard Meier into 383 living and working lofts. The evening ends with a reception and cocktails.
When: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Where: Westbeth, 155 Bank St., New York City
What time: 7 p.m.
Tickets: $10. Purchase at or at the door

Sunday, November 13, 2011

No Demands

The genius of the Occupy Wall Street movement is its lack of demands.  Not just because there cannot be one person who speaks, or one set of needs.  Yes, consensus is good.  But the minute something is asked for, we will be told it can't be done.  We give up our power and autonomy because we will depend on someone else to effect this change.  And in the time-honored way of the politics of negativity and exhaustion, any proposal that is made will be shot down, and no other solutions offered, because the powers that be do not want change.  They do not want a solution.  They want us to shut up.
We do not accept this. We will not play your rigged game. You come up with something better if you want our money, our shopping at your store, our working at your company....  
This is what the Occupy movement is saying, should say.  No.
Because we can live without them.

The genius of Occupy Wall Street is that, in the absence of demands, we the people each have to decide what we want to do.  We may not choose to live in a park in the snow.  But we may embrace National Bank Transfer Day and invest in ourselves through credit unions.  And we may join a CSA and become shareholders in a local, organic farm.  Or we may stand up against fracking.  We can turn to each other in community and start a coop or refuse to buy genetically modified food, or refuse to spend hundred of dollars on toxic beauty products.  As individuals, we can decide what we want to occupy in our lives.  What we want to change.   Occupy Wall Street can be this generation's version of Gloria Steinem's proposal, years ago, on outrageous acts:
"If each person in the room promises that the very next day she or he will do at least one outrageous thing in the cause of simple justice, then I promise I will, too. It doesn't matter whether the act is as small as saying, 'Pick it up yourself' or as large as calling a strike. '"
Perhaps only a mother knows how outrageous, how life-changing, the words "Pick it up yourself" can be.

Here is something else we can "occupy": rape.

From Eve Ensler (this is highly abridged.  Check the link for the full text):
I am over rape.
I am over one in three women in the U.S military (Happy Veterans Day!) getting raped by their so-called "comrades." 
I am over the fact that after four women came forward with allegations that Herman Cain groped them and grabbed them and humiliated them, he is still running for the President of the United States. 
Which reminds me, I am so over the students at Penn State who protested the justice system instead of the alleged rapist pedophile of at least 8 boys, or his boss Joe Paterno, who did nothing to protect those children after knowing what was happening to them. 
We need to OCCUPYRAPE in every school, park, radio, TV station, household, office, factory, refugee camp, military base, back room, night club, alleyway, courtroom, UN office. We need people to truly try and imagine -- once and for all -- what it feels like to have your body invaded, your mind splintered, your soul shattered. We need to let our rage and our compassion connect us so we can change the paradigm of global rape. 
There are approximately one billion women on the planet who have been violated. 
The time is now. Prepare for the escalation. 
Today it begins, moving toward February 14, 2013, when one billion women will rise to end rape. 
Because we are over it.
Look for this movement. Start your own. Because the only way we are going to get a safe, healthy, equitable, sustainable, clean and respectful society and world to live in is if we begin by picking it up ourselves.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Words become us. Occupying our words.

On my calendar next week:  Go to Zuccotti Park when Jan Clausen is there.

On Cara Hoffman's blog today Jan writes:
A. I'm at Zuccotti Park, where I go every day, wearing a sign that says BECAUSE THEY'RE TRYING TO DRIVE OUR PLANET OFF A CLIFF. Cold rain is blowing sideways and I fight with my umbrella while reading Allen Ginsberg's poem "America." Looking up, I spy a tall young man clad in excellent rain pants, standing a few paces away. He pronounces each line as I do, with such assurance that it's clear he knows the entire poem by heart, all the way to the famous ending ("America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel"). We talk. It turns out he's one of the Occupy Wall Street librarians. "We have a whole Allen Ginsberg section in our library!" he exults. For the rest of the day, I feel more alive, because poetry lives.
And she also writes, about an anthology of essays about writing and the writing life, about the "the ragged edges and torn borders that truly invite creative motion":

I'm certainly not saying word artists don't need to spend lots of time alone, wrestling with their materials. Or that we shouldn't be paid. Or that we shouldn't study craft. I'm saying that art is more than the sum of these things, that the central impulse comes from elsewhere, from someplace webby and tentacled. What if the artist's vocation as prophet simply isn't compatible with being a profit center? Although Alchemy of the Word can be put to fine use, it is not a 'useful' book. It's a bountiful array of forking paths leading back into the thicket where one person's imaginative language always reverberates with the languages, purposes, visions of human others.
It is "our offering."

Read her full essay here.
Find the anthology Alchemy of the Word here and here.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Blast from the Past

Here is an interview I did with Rachel Glass for Evergreen Radio/WTBBL in Seattle last year, before the motherhood explosion, when the conversation was really about Japan and the atomic bomb and writing.  It's quite interesting to go back in time.  When Rachel and I sat down, we discovered, of all things, that her parents knew my parents in the old days in Hawaii.  It is, especially in the islands, a very small world.

The MP3 link is here.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Radical Act

“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
The world would split open.”

― Muriel Rukeyser

Twenty years ago, Anita Hill sat in front of a Senate hearing and told her truth at the intersection of race and gender. She was publically pilloried by a panel of white men. This weekend, at Hunter College, Anita Hill was celebrated by a sold-out, star-studded conference, whose participants had a chance to thank her for enduring what she has so that women today could stand on her shoulders.

After a full conference day, the evening was filled with stories, in a hot ticket night of performances curated by Eve Ensler. But throughout the day, there was a clear refrain that will resonate with all women writers. What Anita did, and what we all must continue to do for each other, is to tell our stories. Gloria Steinem quoted an Indian saying: “The loss of memory is a source of oppression.” When we forget, or hide in silence and allow others to forget, we literally lose our ability to speak up for who we are. “We are restoring, supplementing, and extending each others’ memories,” Steinem declared about the conference. For me, a writer who has dedicated herself to unearthing other people’s stories, this was the most powerful reminder in an electrifying day.

At lunch, Hedgebrook, the retreat for women writers on Whidbey Island in Washington state, hosted a conversation about storytelling. “When one woman tells her truth,” Executive Director Amy Wheeler said, “sometimes everyone beside her takes a step back to get out of the way.” When my memoir, Hiroshima in the Morning, came out last year and I tried to tell the truth about my motherhood and open a discussion about different forms of happy families and the importance of love, I got my own small taste of the white male panel, which was only interested in shutting me down. Everything I had to say was misrepresented, and at times it seemed like my only options were to accept an invitation from a hostile television show and shout over their slurs (which I decided not to do), or to retreat and be silent.

Hedgebrook was there for me, with their radical hospitality for women writers. The Feminist Press, my publisher, also stood with me. Someone recently asked me, “Was it worth it? What did you gain?” and I have to say that it was worth it to me to get so many emails from women who shared their own stories. From them, I was reminded that we all have similar struggles, though we make different decisions. And if more of us begin to speak up, none of us will have to go it alone.

Twenty years after Anita Hill’s testimony, the immigrant service worker who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault in New York had her case dismissed as her imperfect past was tried in the court of public opinion. It seems that we have not come as far as we want. But as Steinem also pointed out, her courage to tell her story inspired others to tell theirs, and charges of inappropriate sexual behavior and predation continue to haunt the man who now will not be President of France because one story unlocks the next, and the next. Storytelling is a radical act – I know it, and you know it because you are a writer – but I did not expect to hear that truth reflected back to me so often by so many of the conference panelists, whether they were domestic worker organizers, academics, lawyers or performers.

We women writers need to tell the truth about our lives. It’s not a hobby or an indulgent luxury that we sit down to our desks and write. It is a service, a path-showing, a community we create for others. We also need to support each others’ truth by short circuiting the media and structures that would keep us silent and by sharing each other’s work. As Amy Wheeler said, “It’s not about my voice. It’s about my voice, and your voice, and your voice. We are in it together.”

That’s when the world will truly split open. Keep writing!

This post originally appeared on She Writes.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Second half

Part Two of The Open Mind interview with Cecilia Skidmore is now on line.  Download and listen to both here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Tipping Country

On Saturday, at the Anita Hill 20 conference, Gloria Steinem observed that our country is getting out of control. And that’s a good thing. “Right now we have turned against two wars; in about 20 minutes we are no longer going to be a majority European American or white country; we have a proud African-American family in the White House; and we are critical of our financial institutions in a way we have never been before.” The resulting backlash – more guns being bought, more racist groups, more virulent violence and violent rhetoric, more legislation against personal and women’s reproductive freedoms – comes from people who, "through no fault of their own, were born into a structure that made them believe they had a right by birth to be in control” and whose identity rests on this control. She gives us this scary, powerful and hopeful metaphor: domestic violence as a microcosm of our political situation:
“The time of maximum danger for a woman who is about to escape a violent household is that moment just before and just after she escapes. She is most likely to be seriously injured or murdered at that moment because she is getting out of control.”
“We are in a time of danger and we need to protect each other. We need to know that. We are about to be free and we are not going to stop.”
Keep each other safe. Keep fighting. It is darkest, as they say, just before the dawn.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Today on the Open Mind

I will be talking with Cecilia Skidmore on The Open Mind on WGVU Radio today and next Sunday. Her program complements a national PBS series called Women, War and Peace. Listen in to the streaming broadcast online, or download the segment at your convenience.

The show airs in Grand Rapids, MI at 7:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on Sundays.on WGVU-FM 88.5 and 95.3.

Link is here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Asian American Literary Award Finalist

The finalists for this year's Asian American Literary Award in non-fiction this year are:
A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Bomb by Amitava Kumar (Duke University Press Books) 
The Lucky Ones: One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America by Mae Ngai (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) 
Hiroshima in the Morning by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto (The Feminist Press at CUNY)

Come to the third annual Page Turner Festival, hosted by the Asian American Writers Workshop for a day of readings and panels, and a night of celebration and awards.  Check out the link above for updates!

Saturday, October 29, 2011, 11am - 7pm
POWERHOUSE ARENA, 37 Main Street, Brooklyn
$5 per event / $20  all day pass / $30 all-day pass (w/ AFTERWORD party)

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Clemency:  a disposition to be merciful.

Letter (excerpt) from Troy Davis, executed last night in Georgia after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene without comment:

"As I look at my mail from across the globe, from places I have never ever dreamed I would know about and people speaking languages and expressing cultures and religions I could only hope to one day see first hand. I am humbled by the emotion that fills my heart with overwhelming, overflowing Joy. I can’t even explain the insurgence of emotion I feel when I try to express the strength I draw from you all, it compounds my faith and it shows me yet again that this is not a case about the death penalty, this is not a case about Troy Davis, this is a case about Justice and the Human Spirit to see Justice prevail. 
"I cannot answer all of your letters but I do read them all, I cannot see you all but I can imagine your faces, I cannot hear you speak but your letters take me to the far reaches of the world, I cannot touch you physically but I feel your warmth everyday I exist. 
"So Thank you and remember I am in a place where execution can only destroy your physical form but because of my faith in God, my family and all of you I have been spiritually free for some time and no matter what happens in the days, weeks to come, this Movement to end the death penalty, to seek true justice, to expose a system that fails to protect the innocent must be accelerated. There are so many more Troy Davis’. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this Unjust system city by city, state by state and country by country. 
"I can’t wait to Stand with you, no matter if that is in physical or spiritual form, I will one day be announcing, 
“I am Troy Davis, and I am free!”

Friday, September 9, 2011

Off to LA

There have been, in the last weeks, so many things to do: speeches to write, visuals to prepare, plane trips that require me to be patted down and my bags unpacked and gone through by hand because my books and my computer cord in my carry-on are so close together in the x-ray screening that the entire line was nearly shut down to deal with the threat that is me. But now I am on my way to Los Angeles – five airborne hours – with nothing but the present moment. I can read the book I brought – Amy Waldman’s The Submission – for nothing but pleasure. I can daydream. I have been preoccupied with what to say to an audience I cannot yet see and whom I have not met. But to decide so far in advance what I should offer them and what they need to hear is to constrain the future. To predetermine it and make it less than it might otherwise be. I am not an historian, or an expert, or even an advocate. I am an artist, and a witness, and so I have decided to lecture less and engage more. To be in the moment when it comes. Wish me luck.

Monday, September 5, 2011

September 10th at the Japanese American National Museum

This weekend, to mark the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks,  I will be speaking and reading from Hiroshima in the Morning at the Japanese American National Museum.  The program starts at 2 pm.  The museum, if you have never been there, is beautiful and features the names of former internees of the WWII relocation centers - including my mother's, grandparents' and great uncles' - etched in the glass.

Come join me, and please pass the word along! Reservations are apparently encouraged, but that doesn't mean it is too late!

369 East First Street
Los Angeles, California 90012
phone: 213.625.0414

When making a reservation, e-mail or call 213.625.0414 at least 48 hours prior to the event.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fishing, Hawaii Style

We (the boys and I) are in Hawaii visiting my Dad as we usually do a couple of times a year.  Yesterday, fishing out of Kona, my oldest caught his first big blue marlin.  Not exactly the Old Man and the Sea; the Tropical Sun is a very luxurious boat.  This fish weighed about 250 pounds - we tagged and released it after walking it along side the boat to make sure it had revived and could swim.  What a thrill for a 130 pound young man who has been fishing the Hawaiian waters all his life (his first fishing trip at age two!).

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dayton Literary Peace Prize

“Are we so naïve as to think that we can bring peace to the world through words? Yes we are. What else do we have?” 
- Elie Weisel

Hiroshima in the Morning has been nominated for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, "the first and only annual U.S. literary award recognizing the power of the written word to promote peace."  This year's nominees include Nelson Mandela, Isabel Wilkerson, Kai Bird, and Siddhartha Mukherjee, among many other gifted writers.  It's an amazing honor to be nominated, and to be on any list that also has Nelson Mandela on it.

Wish me luck.  Take a look at the list and read the books!

Monday, August 15, 2011

A beautiful tribute, and a chance to help

The crisis in Japan is far from over;
it may be gone from the headlines,
but it is not gone from our hearts.

Donald & Era Farnsworth's Sacred Pine depicts a pine tree in Rikuzentakata, Japan, a coastal city almost completely flattened by the tsunami following the 2011 Touhoku earthquake. Incredibly, this single pine was left standing from a grove of more than 70,000 trees planted along the shore three centuries ago; the tree has emerged as a symbol of hope and renewal in an otherwise devastated region.

For more information, to purchase or make a donation, (or to investigate my tiny connection to this beautiful work) click here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sixty-six years ago, more than 60,000 people killed in an instant

A moment of silence for the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki.

In the words of Harry S. Truman, our President, on August 11, 1945, explaining the use of the two atomic bombs:

“The only language they seem to understand is the one we have been using to bombard them.

“When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him as a beast.”

Source here.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

We are being lied to

A round up on the English-language news about the Fukushima disaster and the state of our own nuclear power plants.

New York Times: Japan Held Nuclear Data, Leaving Evacuees in Peril
By Norimitsu Onishi and Martin Fackler, August 8, 2011
“In interviews and public statements, some current and former government officials have admitted that Japanese authorities engaged in a pattern of withholding damaging information and denying facts of the nuclear disaster — in order, some of them said, to limit the size of costly and disruptive evacuations in land-scarce Japan and to avoid public questioning of the politically powerful nuclear industry.”

New York Times: Japan Passes Law Supporting Stricken Nuclear Plant’s Operator
By Hiroko Tabuchi, August 3, 2011
“Japan’s Parliament passed a law on Wednesday that will allow the use of public funds to shore up the company operating the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, and help it pay what is expected to amount to billions of dollars in compensation claims.”

CNN: Workers find lethal radiation levels at Fukushima Daiichi
By Kyung Lah, August 2, 2011
“A 60-minute exposure could kill a man or woman within weeks.”

New York Times: US Senators Argue Over Fate of Nuclear Safety Proposals
By Hannah Northey, August 2, 2011
“Top Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee criticized the federal task force charged with reviewing Japan's nuclear crisis and the safety of U.S. reactors for recommending "more Washington red tape" and called its proposals premature, potentially excessively, expensive and burdensome.”

New York Times: Radiation-Tainted Beef Spreads Through Japan’s Markets
By Hiroko Tabuchi, July 18, 2011
“Japanese agricultural officials say meat from more than 500 cattle that were likely to have been contaminated with radioactive cesium has made its way to supermarkets and restaurants across Japan in recent weeks….If you eat it every day, it might be a problem,” Goshi Hosono, the minister in charge of the nuclear issue, said last week. “But if you eat just a little, there would be no big effect on your health.”

MSNBC: Radioactive tritium leaks found at 48 US nuke sites
By Jeff Donn, June 21, 2011
“Radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites, often into groundwater from corroded, buried piping, an Associated Press investigation shows. The number and severity of the leaks has been escalating, even as federal regulators extend the licenses of more and more reactors across the nation…
"You got pipes that have been buried underground for 30 or 40 years, and they've never been inspected,' whistleblower says.”

Guardian U.K.: Fukushima cleanup recruits 'nuclear gypsies' from across Japan
By Justin McCurry, 13 July 2011
“Thousands of engineers and labourers have been lured by higher wages and a sense of duty…They include Ariyoshi Rune, a tall, wiry 47-year-old truck driver whose slicked-back hair and sideburns are inspired by his idol, Joe Strummer…For five days a week, Rune is in thrall to the drudgery of life as a "nuclear gypsy", the name writer Kunio Horie gave to contract workers who have traditionally performed the dirtiest, most dangerous jobs for Japan's power utilities. “I have about two months left before I reach my limit, but I'm hoping they will make an exception and let me work for longer," he says.” 

Aljazeera: Fukushima: It's much worse than you think
By Dahr Jamail, 16 June 2011
“Scientific experts believe Japan's nuclear disaster to be far worse than governments are revealing to the public….We have 20 nuclear cores exposed, the fuel pools have several cores each, that is 20 times the potential to be released than Chernobyl," said Gundersen. "The data I'm seeing shows that we are finding hot spots further away than we had from Chernobyl, and the amount of radiation in many of them was the amount that caused areas to be declared no-man's-land for Chernobyl. We are seeing square kilometres being found 60 to 70 kilometres away from the reactor. You can't clean all this up. We still have radioactive wild boar in Germany, 30 years after Chernobyl."

Reuters: Radiation "hotspots" hinder Japan response to nuclear crisis
By Kevin Krolicki and Kiyoshi Takenaka, Jun 15, 2011
“Hisao Nakamura still can't accept that his crisply cut field of deep green tea bushes south of Tokyo has been turned into a radioactive hazard by a crisis far beyond the horizon.
"I was more than shocked," said Nakamura, 74, who, like other tea farmers in Kanagawa has been forced to throw away an early harvest because of radiation being released by the Fukushima Daiichi plant 300 kilometers (180 miles) away…The incomplete data has complicated Japan's response to the disaster and planning for an environmental clean-up expected to take years and cost tens of billions of dollars.
"It has also created a mood of quiet despair in already devastated communities. "I never believe anything I hear any more on radiation," said Shukuko Kuzumi, 63, who lives in Iwaki, about 50 km to the south of Fukushima.
"I want to dig a hole in the ground and scream."”

Yomiuri Shimbun: Radiation discovered in Fukushima, Ibaraki foods
March 21, 2011
“According to test results announced Saturday, samples of cow milk from Kawamatacho, Fukushima Prefecture, and spinach from six cities, towns and villages in Ibaraki Prefecture were found to contain radioactive iodine and other radioactive materials in excess of provisional limits, officials said….In Ibaraki Prefecture, radioactive iodine was detected from spinach sampled from farms in Hitachi, Takahagi, Hitachi-Ota and Hitachinaka cities and the town of Daigomachi and the village of Tokaimura. The highest level found was 15,020 Bq, 7.5 times the permissible level…There is no direct risk to human health from the latest radioactivity findings involving cow milk and spinach, according to Prof. Gen Suzuki of the International University of Health and Welfare.”

Stuart Smith Blog, Quoting The Washington Post: As Radiation Levels Soar In Japan, Officials Raise “Acceptable” Limits
March 16, 2011
“If we hear that exposure is “within legal limits” anytime soon, let’s remember this from the Washington Post: “Japan’s Health and Welfare minister had to waive the nation’s standard of radiation exposure, increasing levels of acceptable exposure from 100 millisieverts to 250 – five times the level allowed in the United States.”

Monday, August 1, 2011

Identity and otherness

Coming late to this talk, by Thandie Newton, about the devastating consequences of the human scramble to create a projection of self that we can hide behind and hold onto.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


A note from the Goddard residency about a new article on Women Doing Literary Things:

"As a writer, I have always been attracted to what is hidden. I write to understand what is not understandable, what is not even acceptable, and to find a deeper truth in what has not been spoken.

"I write war, trauma, history.

"I also write family, without planning to do so. And motherhood. This is the natural consequence of writing who I am. In our culture and our stories, gender is everything. I have learned – not always in the nicest ways – that even when I am sure that my own preoccupations have nothing to do with gender, my readers will still bring their own, gender-based expectations to my work."

To read the whole article, you can link to this blog, to She Writes, or to Gender Without Borders

Monday, June 20, 2011

Thought for the Day

"In the Babemba tribe of South Africa, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the center of the village, alone and unfettered. All work ceases, and every man, woman, and child in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused individual. Then each person in the tribe speaks to the accused, one at a time, recalling the good things the person in the center of the circle has done in his lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy, is recounted. All his positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length. This tribal ceremony often lasts for several days. At the end, the circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe."
- Jack Kornfield, On Forgiveness, excerpted in Transforming Terror: Remembering the Soul of the World, edited by Karin Lofthus Carrington and Susan Griffin.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

New York in the Morning...

This morning, I discovered - surprise, surprise! - that there is very little traffic on the roads at 2:30 in the morning.  That's when I was picked up for a live interview on the Lorraine show, on ITV in the UK.  More traffic than expected at 4:00 am, when I was finished.  In between, a conversation with a smiley face on a yellow post it (that's where I was supposed to look at the camera - I could hear Lorraine's Scottish brogue in my ear, but her image was too time-lagged to look at).  If you have an international video viewer, you can see it here.  If not, you can wait along with me for the DVD to arrive in the mail.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

From Beth, in Berlin

  • Beth Kephart, amazing writer, sends a vision from Berlin.  She writes:
    "A consecration.  A silence.
    "This is the German war memorial, a mother holding her son.The ground below has the remains of a German soldier and a holocaust victim. The earth is from both a battle ground and a concentration camp."
    Truly a Chorus of Stones.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Transforming Terror

"The heart has reasons that reason does not understand."

I have ordered my copy of Transforming Terror: Remembering the Soul of the World, edited by Karin Lofthus Carrington and Susan Griffin, University of California Press.

In their own words:

"Over the last decade, whether in Palestine or Israel, Mumbai or Pakistan, Baghdad or Kabul, Rwanda or the Sudan, the United States, Spain, or Great Britain, we have witnessed a vicious cycle in which terrorism causes terror and the experience of terror seeds acts of terrorism. And yet, though the human emotions we all share— fear, grief, and loss— are so clearly part of this murderous equation, in delineating and defining this violence rarely does society consider the experience of terror that lies at the heart of terrorism."

Heart and humanity are at the center of my writing. I am looking forward to reading this book, and to using it as an inspiration for an upcoming presentation I will be giving at the University of Connecticut at Storrs on September 15 on the multivalent meanings contained in the still-evocative term, "ground zero."

Buy the book. Read it with me. Tell me what you think.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

To The Contrary

A not terribly groundbreaking debate on noncustodial motherhood begins at about 16:20 minutes into the episode, but it ends with the acknowledgment that different models of family and childcare can work!

Watch the full episode. See more To The Contrary.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Talking with Sherry Bracken

My Mother's Day interview with Sherry Bracken has been posted on The Big Island News Center.  You can listen to the half hour discussion here.  We talk about everything from astrophysics, to my mother, to the inspiration for my first novel to Hiroshima in the Morning.  She is a thoughtful, warm and very smart interviewer.  Thanks Sherry!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Reading on The Drum

The Drum, a Literary Magazine For Your Ears

I am reading from Hiroshima in the Morning on The Drum Literary Magazine, "a literary magazine for your ears,"  featured this week and archived forever with a lot of other great readings and interviews.  Check out the magazine.  It's definitely worth your time!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

"A mother is not a person to lean on but a person to make leaning unnecessary."
Dorothy Canfield Fisher (who, coincidentally, has a dorm at Goddard College named after her).

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Isn't it strange?

Comments on my article on The Huffington Post yesterday featured many protests to my suggestion that, if we really think single motherhood is bad for women and children, then maybe we, as a caring society, should think about how we can help.  Essentially (paraphrasing here):

"Why should I give up my hard earned money to someone else?"

Meanwhile, comments on my tribute to my mother on Salon, which also ran yesterday, seemed to indicate a belief that mothers should sacrifice themselves for the greater good of their children and families, in the heartbreaking and difficult cases where those two are at odds.  I did not leave my children, and I am so grateful to have found an unorthodox way to balance my needs and my children's needs so that both are met.  So sad, though, and so ironic when placed next to the comments on the other article, to read that quite a few people think:

"My mother left us and found her happiness, but she should have stayed because one person's happiness is less important that the happiness of several (her children and family)."

One or several?  Me or them?  Is it just mothers who we require to be selfless, when the rest of us clearly don't want to be? 

The choices, and the solutions, cannot be so black and white.  We are human, after all.  Love and compassion are part of what we are.  There has to be a way to empower us to help ourselves and enable us to support and serve others so that no one is ruined, abandoned, or lost.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Blaming single moms

Here is an article on the Huffington Post today about single motherhood, in which seven out of ten commenters seem determined to prove the statistic that seven out of ten Americans think single motherhood is "bad for society."  When did we become so selfish?  Without empathy, without community, every one of us is lost.

"Is it that old bugaboo, the welfare mom, raised most recently in connection with Natalie Portman? In defending his comments about the actress, Mike Huckabee claimed, "most single moms are very poor, under-educated, can't get a job, and if it weren't for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death." Not true. In fact, according to the Census Bureau, 80% of single mothers work and less than a quarter receive public assistance. But fighting and accusing and attacking is what captures our attention. How many of us were able to escape Ann Coulter's nationally televised claims that single motherhood is "a recipe to create criminals, strippers, rapists, murderers"? Here is that dire warning about my children being ruined coming back through a bullhorn.

"These are our children she is talking about. Our next generation."

Read the whole article here, or on the top of the main Divorce page if you get to it today.

A tribute to my mother

 On Salon today, an essay about my mother.  Here's a sneak peak:

My mother was always there. She was a 1950s housewife, living in the '60s and '70s. Whatever my siblings and I needed, she gave: hand-sewn prom dresses; homemade Christmas ornaments; she pulled up a stool and offered step-by-step advice (through the locked bathroom door I refused to open for, oh, an hour) about how to insert my first tampon. When I confessed to her, as a child, that I had stolen candy bars from a local store, she helped me believe life could go on and be righted, and it was that safety, that lying together in my bed, that ensured I would never steal anything again. When I was 15, and broke my arm falling off a runaway horse, careening straight downhill behind my house in the rain, I didn't cry -- it didn't even hurt -- until I laid eyes on my mother.
 Read the whole piece here.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Globe and Mail

I've done close to one hundred interviews, between research for my three books, Why She Left Us, Hiroshima in the Morning and my next novel just completed, Shadow Child.  Now, I get a taste of my own medicine!  I had a wonderful, spirited conversation with Sarah Hampson, a writer for the Globe and Mail, which went through so many topics in only one hour.  According to her recounting of it, I said my children "don't annoy me"!

Ha! Well, I probably said it because they don't.  I love them.  And they both crushed me in Scrabble Slam last night.

From the article:

On Mother’s Day, her boys will be with her. They will cook pancakes or waffles together. If it’s nice out, they’ll go for a walk through the botanical gardens. “I’m a better mother because I’m not concerned with ‘shoulds’,” she says. “Now that I’m divorced and I have them for specific amounts of time, I can give them my full attention when I have them.”

The full article is here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Interview questions

I was  interviewed by Lara Dunning for her blog recently.  My responses are up now.  She asked me a question about the role of visual media (TV and internet) on triggering lost or pushed aside memories within the hibakusha, a question no one has ever asked before.  Here is my answer.  You can read the rest of the conversation on her blog.

"Interesting question! Visual media, and especially the sound that comes with it, is absolutely in-your-face. You can’t put up a nice, safe emotional wall between you and what you are seeing. With words, you can. You can put down the book, but you can also engage your brain to accept the story in a more distant way. And of course, the writer is also making decisions about how to tell the story, so the raw material is already being shaped. But image, and sound, go directly into your brain and your emotions before your mind can protect you. I remember, I think it was a Michael Moore documentary, a black screen where you couldn’t see but could only hear the sound of the 9/11 attacks. That was really powerful."

On com! asked me to write about the reaction to my motherhood. You can read the whole essay here. Here is a sample:

"What is a woman’s place? Why are we so eager to judge mothers, and ourselves, based on a belief that self-sacrifice equals love? Why is the well-being of children paramount, while the well-being of the mother is not important at all?"

Friday, April 15, 2011

What (was!) going on in Japan

This one hour conversation, on the Acupuncture Power Hour with Tim Chambers, aired on March 28th, but I am just getting the link now.  On the page, the show, What's Going on in Japan, appears in the list second to the bottom.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Moment I Knew

The Moment I Knew Meetup for the Huffington Post, 
"Two decades together. All of my adult life. Every day of it in relationship, in twinship. In compromise. He wanted to go back to that life; he wanted the last six months erased. And faced with that impossibility, before he could go forward he needed me to define precisely who I now was.
"And that was the problem. Even that. I couldn't say who I wanted to be. I didn't know, and the point was that I didn't want to have to guess and negotiate. I wanted to be allowed to grow, to change, with the assurance that I was still loveable.
"I tried to put that into words."
There is a short video of the readings here.
Read the whole essay here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Talking with Dr. Laura Berman

Here's a clip from yesterday's radio interview, which was a wonderful, in-depth hour conversation.  (This is just a seven minute section.)

"Oprah Radio host Dr. Laura Berman talks with Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, author of Hiroshima in the Morning, about her unconventional mothering style. Plus, they discuss how modern women are redefining their roles as mothers."

Listen here.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

April 5th, live and in person

Live, and in-person are two different things, and April 5th is my mother's birthday.

LIVE is the Dr. Laura Berman radio show on the OWN network, beginning at 6 pm.

IN-PERSON in New York City is the Huffington Post's 'Moment I Knew' Meetup, hosted by Melissa Francis, CNBC anchor and "Divorce Wars" correspondent Where: Macao Trading Co., 311 Church St. (between Walker St. & Lispenard St.), New York, 10013 When: April 5th, 7 to 10 p.m. Cost: Free! Important: Please RSVP to with the subject line "Moment I Knew Meetup RSVP NYC"

FREE food & drink for the first hour of the event!

Mobile Libris will be on-site, selling books by all author-performers.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Know yourself

Many people have written to me recently through this blog. I am sorry I haven’t been able to respond individually, but I have read every personal story and every note that has reached out to connect with me or with the topics in my memoir in a meaningful way.

Thank you.

There is a common thread in many of your letters. You are saying that we have a gut instinct, a personal “knowing” about who we are and what we need to live our lives, and too often, that doesn’t fit into the expectations of the society around us. We are not supported, and we struggle – sometimes against serious resistance – to believe in ourselves and trust ourselves. Sometimes we give up, deciding at last that society must be right: other people’s beliefs, decisions and rules are wiser and more valuable than our own. This is how we can come to see ourselves: that each of us, individually, is just one person, trying her best but no expert. No one special.

How can that be true?

Think about what we are saying to ourselves: Someone else knows who I am and what I need better than I do. Other people are wiser, stronger, better, more worthy than I am. 

How can that be true?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Future thoughts

A bit of wise advice:
"The point is not to fix anything.  The point is to create anew."
I think of this when I watch the radiation leaking into vast swathes of Japan and listen to the excuses, as if to say that, if we can blame this tragedy on incompetence or a freak occurrence or strange foreign ways we do not have to worry about the caged tiger in our own livingroom.

I think of this when I see the pictures of the dead baby dolphins washing upon our Gulf beaches and read that we "may never know why so many animals are dying."  No, in our oil-infused, dispersant-saturated waters, we may never know.

It is up to us to imagine a new relationship with our planet if we want to have a future on it.  Not in fear, but with care and clear vision.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Heart of a Woman

For anyone who missed the Heart of a Woman radio show and couldn't get it through the link I posted before, here is a better link.

It's an hour long discussion of everything which some people have been wishing for with the narrow focus on motherhood issues in some of the recent press.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Full Moon

Cleaning off my desk today for the full moon, I found this letter from a friend:

"Just for today remember that words are something you have inherited.  Lead with your desire to honor those who came before you.  Think of writing as an act of love.  Know that you are capable of a lot of love - in words, in silences, on and off the page.  But today, focus on how love affects what you write."

Friday, March 18, 2011

Coming up

An hour-long discussion of Hiroshima in the Morning, writing, Japan... on Heart of a Woman, Monday, 21st.

The Joy Behar Show, HLN/CNN, Monday, 21st, at 10 pm.

Daybreak, ITV (U.K. morning show) Thursday, 24th.

One to One, CUNY-TV,  Monday, 28th, 7 am, 1 pm, 11 pm; April 3rd, 9 am.  (Also streamed on YouTube)

The Gender Gap in Motherhood, The Huffington Post.

For an up to date list of appearances with links and videos, check the sidebar.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

No More Hibakusha

From an editorial that went out through the Progressive Media Project:

"In August 1945 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 170,000 people were killed immediately, but the total number of “bomb-affected people” peaked around 380,000. These are people who may not even have appeared sick immediately, but have suffered high rates of cancer, blood disorders, fatigue and other ailments over a period of years. They were not all in the city centers when the bomb was dropped; some came in later to search for family members and help with rescue and cleanup.

"What we know about radiation exposure and its effects on living creatures comes from Japan. The fact that there is so much that is not common knowledge is also Japan’s legacy. After the bombs were dropped, pictures and video were censored, confiscated and classified, and news reports limited."

Read the whole article here
Find all my articles and essays in the sidebar.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

All Eyes on Japan

Today, I am sending love and prayers to the people of Japan.  They suffered the only atomic bombs ever used in war, and are now facing the biggest nuclear disaster in peace.  Please join me.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Gayle King Show

It was a pleasure to talk about motherhood, care-taking and women's choices on Gayle King's show today on OWN radio.  We didn't stop chatting for a moment, even through the commercials!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thank you

Thank you everyone who has reached out to me recently.  I wish I could respond to each comment individually.  Your stories range widely, but I am most grateful to you who have taken the time to detail your own experiences and thoughts about motherhood and womanhood and the variety of choices we make.  I firmly believe it is important for us to find a place where one size does not have to fit all, and to formulate our families however we need to to make sure the kids are loved, supported, healthy and whole, and that the adults are too. 

We are all unique.  It's a big world.  And with the reality that half of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, in the face of that personal struggle and sadness, we need to be allowed to find the best way forward for all concerned.

When Hiroshima in the Morning first came out, people everywhere gave me their stories, at readings, in taxi cabs.  You are still sharing.  Thank you.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What is a mother?

From my article today on Salon:

"The question I am always asked is, "How could you leave your children?" How could you be the mother who walks away? As if my children were embedded inside me, even years after birth, and had to be surgically removed? As if I abandoned them on a desert island, amid flaming airplane debris and got into the lifeboat alone?"

Read the whole essay here.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Truth Telling

From an interview on Cara Hoffman's  blog:

"When I went to Japan, I was looking for the textural details of the atomic bomb experience for a novel.  Three months into my visit, September 11th happened, and the testimonies changed. The atomic bomb survivors were shaken by the attacks, just as the rest of the world was, and as a result, they began to remember differently – which is to say, they recovered buried details of loss, of pain, and of love. At that moment, the tables turned. I was no longer seeking them out for their help; they wanted to talk to me so that I could be a witness to their experiences and a repository of their memories, their lost family members, their suffering. It was an incredible honor, and I do feel like I wrote the book, in part, for them: as a testament to those moments of connection and their trust in me. That is the closest I come to political."

For the whole interview, click here.  And look out for Cara's debut, So Much Pretty, coming from S&S on March 15th.
For links to all articles and essays, check the sidebar.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

National Book Critics Circle Award Events

A panel discussion and a reading before the awards ceremony.  Here are the details.  All open to the public.

NBCC Finalists in Conversation at The Graduate Center

March 08, 2011 7:00 pm 
Elebash Recital Hall, The Graduate Center, CUNY Fifth Avenue 
between 34th and 35th New York, NY 

NBCC biography and autobiography finalists in conversation with biography chair Eric Banks and autobiography co chair Rigoberto Gonzalez. With biography finalists Sarah Bakewell and Yunte Huang, autobiography finalists Patti Smith, Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, and others. Hosted by Brenda Wineapple.

National Book Critics Circle Awards: Finalists Reading, 6:00 PM

March 09, 2011 6:00 pm 
The New School 66 West 12th St New York, NY 

Monday, February 14, 2011

From Critical Mass, the blog of the National Book Critics Circle Board of Directors

The NBCC is posting a review of each nominated book for this year's awards.  It is a great way to get a sense of them all, and decide which ones you are going to buy and read.  Today's entry:
"The many avenues of Hiroshima in the Morning--explorations of history, of culture, of family, of self--ebb and flow to deliver a stunning portrait of survival. Rizzuto’s writing is lyrical and moving, transcendent and beautiful, yet it constructs a robust narrative that does not succumb to the gravity of the world events that inform it.
Above all, Rizzuto’s gorgeous and hard-won memoir is an exploration of story. How we shape it and how it shapes us, how it imprisons us though eventually, mercifully, it liberates us: “How we tell our stories makes all the difference. They are where we store our tears, where the eventual healing lies... What September 11 gave to the hibakushas, and what they gave in turn to me, is a way to re-enter memory.”
Read the entire article here.

More praise for Hiroshima in the Morning can be found here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist

Awe and gratitude.  And a few tears.  That is my response to the news that Hiroshima in the Morning was nominated as a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

The selection committee chose a shortlist of books that give me great hope, not just for books and writers, but for who we are and what we care about as human beings.  Each book grapples with our most important subjects - death, war, friendship; each expands our universal experience by sharing it through a single, compassionate heart.  They are thoughtful, provocative and necessary.  Read them.