In Praise of Persimmons

persimmons, Fuyu persimmon
ripe Fuyu persimmons

Ah, persimmon season: my favorite time of year to be in Davis, California, and to live in my house.

Nine years ago, when we left San Francisco and bought this place, I disliked almost everything about it (especially that it was not in San Francisco), and really liked only one thing: the mature Fuyu persimmon tree in the northeast corner of our otherwise unremarkable backyard.

Over the years we’ve made a few changes to the house and property so that, if I don’t exactly love the place, I have at least developed some fondness for it. And the persimmon tree remains one of its abiding delights. Continue reading

On Being Mistaken for the Other Japanese-American Writer in Town: Not the Rant You’re Expecting

The other day I ran into an acquaintance in town. We don’t know each other well and hadn’t seen each other in several months, so I reminded her of my name.

“Yes, of course!” she said. “Didn’t your book just come out?”

I laughed. “No, not yet.” And then it clicked. “You’re thinking of Brenda Nakamoto,” I said.

“Oh, you’re right!” she said. We both laughed, then shared a few pleasantries before going our separate ways.

I know people who would have been offended by this encounter. There goes another white person thinking all Asians look alike and are interchangeable, etc. Continue reading

On Pride, Identity, and Watching the Women’s World Cup

302px-Logo_of_2011_FIFA_Women's_World_Cup.svgMy friends are often surprised to learn that I love watching sports on television. I can’t blame them. I’m pretty aggressively nonathletic. My idea of exercise is biking to the Farmer’s Market. My notion of a competitive good time is kicking your butt in Scrabble.

But I do love watching sports, and not just the conventionally “girly” stuff like figure skating and gymnastics, although I enjoy those too. I love the World Series. I love the Olympics, winter and summer. I love the World Cup. This summer I’ve squandered hours of what was supposed to be prime a.m. writing time watching the FIFA Women’s World Cup with my family. Continue reading

Orientalism Alive and Well: David Mitchell’s “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet”

David Mitchell, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de ZoetI couldn’t wait to read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. The novel is about nearly everything I enjoy reading and writing about: Japan. The late 18th century. The early 19th century. Sailing ships. Encounters between East and West. It even includes a few references to my own pet subject, the La Pérouse expedition.

Well, now I’ve read it, and I’m so sorry to say this because it makes me look like the girl at the party who sits in the corner and scowls at all the people having fun, but I have some serious gripes with this book. Continue reading

Family Lore and the Great Kanto Earthquake

Great Kanto Earthquake
Tokyo after the Great Kanto Earthquake

A version of the short essay that follows was originally published at my friend Marc Brush’s wonderful but now defunct online lit mag Wandering Army.

I have some mixed feelings about reviving the piece barely a month after the devastating March 11 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. But I keep seeing references to the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, and only a few of these references make mention of the story that I’m going to tell here. Continue reading