My first novel, Why She Left Us, was published in 1999 by HarperCollins and won an American Book Award. The book was inspired by my discovery (at the age of 30) that my Japanese-American mother and her family had been interned during World War II in the American internment camps. My journey to, and through, that novel was the beginning of my own exploration of war, and historical blindness, and our highly individual quests for peace – all of which now lie very much at the center of my writing and my life.
After my novel came out, I was awarded a U.S. Japan Creative Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and went to live in Hiroshima, Japan to seek out survivors of the atomic bombings for my next novel. I was living in Japan and was in the midst of conducting this research on September 11, 2001 when my own family was in New York trying to deal with the terrorist attacks. My second book, Hiroshima in the Morning, is a memoir about how those two “wars” collided from my perspective as a writer, an expatriate and a mother. Hiroshima in the Morning is a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist and the winner of the Grub Street National Book Award.
Recently, I have completed the novel I went to Japan to write and also have begun a young adult trilogy – both books are forthcoming. I am also the Associate Editor of The NuyorAsian Anthology: Asian American Writings About New York City, published by Temple University Press in 1999. (This anthology was a PEN American Center Open Book Honoree.) My essays and short stories have appeared in anthologies, journals and newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, Salon Magazine, Mothers Who Think, Because I Said So, Topography of War, Mamapedia.com, and the Huffington Post. I have written four young adult novels under a pseudonym, and I am a member of the Asian American Writers Workshop in New York.
As for my writing, I came to prose from science (I majored in astrophysics in college). As a teacher, my initial focus is to help each student strip away analysis (and self consciousness) and find the unique urgency and heart in her or his work, and then to use the appropriate tools and craft to tease out the surprises and idiosyncrasies that belong to each alone. I am interested in structure, and in memory, and in the use of historical research in fiction and creative non-fiction. I look forward to working with any student at any stage in their writing career, as long as they are serious about their process and their growth. My website is www.r3reiko.com.