22 Memoirs to Read with Asian Men & Western Women in Love

It’s been almost seven years since I posted about books featuring Chinese men and Western women in love, and over five years since I posted about memoirs featuring Asian men and Western women in love. Plus, a lot of wonderful memoirs have come out in the past few years. Time to update you with a full list of AMWF memoirs you should read!

I’ve listed the titles in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name and linked them to Amazon, where your purchases help support this site.

“Good Chinese Wife” by Susan Blumberg-Kason

When it comes to the success of a cross-cultural relationship, does culture or personality matter more? Susan Blumberg-Kason’s gripping memoir “Good Chinese Wife: A Love Affair With China Gone Wrong” offers a very personal answer to that question. Learn more through my interview with Susan.

“Tone Deaf in Bangkok” by Janet Brown

It’s never too late to follow your heart to Asia. Just ask writer Janet Brown, who went to Thailand at age 45 and fell in love with the people and places. Learn more through my interview with Janet.

“Burmese Lessons: A true love story” by Karen Connelly

When Karen went to Burma in 1996 for research on the conditions of Burmese political prisoners, love wasn’t on her mind — until she met Maung, a sexy young Burmese revolutionary leader. But this isn’t just a love story, as she beautifully captures her entire experience in this country — including her interview with Aung San Suu Kyi.

“Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China” by Rachel DeWoskin

A woman who dared to love Chinese men on screen (and off), as well as Chinese culture. DeWoskin writes about it all with passion and humor.

“Kissing Outside the Lines: A True Story of Love and Race and Happily Ever After” by Diane Farr

Think gorgeous girls don’t go for Asian men? Then you haven’t met actress and celebrity Diane Farr, who married a Korean-American man and shared her story — and those of many others who crossed racial/cultural/ethnic lines in the name of love — in this humorous read.

“Mae Franking’s My Chinese Marriage: An Annotated Edition” by Mae Franking

A rare window into the world of a Western woman who married a Chinese man in the early 20th century, despite the estrangement of both families. Half a love story, half a collection of letters that capture the times in which they lived.

“The Natural Laws of Good Luck: A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage” by Ellen Graf

In her mid-forties and divorced, the last thing Ellen ever expected was to travel to China and marry a Chinese man she knew for less than a week. But the unspoken connection between then brings this unlikely pair together, and sustains them through the trials and tribulations of their new cross-cultural relationship.

“Sideways on a Scooter: Life and Love in India” by Miranda Kennedy

Miranda’s book is an exploration of the many cultural rules and norms that govern women’s lives there, especially love, marriage and family. She dates some Indian men along the way, but reveals so much more through the Indian women she comes to know throughout the story.

“A Field Guide to Happiness” by Linda Leaming

Linda Leaming’s new book “A Field Guide to Happiness: What I Learned in Bhutan about Living, Loving, and Waking Up” reads like a love letter to Bhutan. Learn more through my interview with Linda.

“Married to Bhutan: How One Woman Got Lost, Said “I Do,” and Found Bliss” by Linda Leaming

Linda discovered her bliss — and later, her Bhutanese husband — in this oft-overlooked Himalayan country. This magical tale of her relationship with her future husband and his country is filled with moments that will have you laughing out loud.

“Mao’s Last Dancer” by Li Cunxin

Li Cunxin is a poor rural Chinese who skyrockets to fame as a ballet dancer. But when China sends him to Texas as part of an exchange, he falls in love with an American woman and America, and wants to defect. (Also a movie.)

“Son of the Revolution” by Liang Heng and Judith Shapiro

Most of the story revolves around Liang Heng’s personal suffering during the Cultural Revolution. However, the last few chapters of this book document how Liang Heng and Judith Shapiro incredibly fall in love, and marry, in a China just barely open to the world.

Here Comes the Sun by Leza Lowitz“Here Comes the Sun: A Journey to Adoption in 8 Chakras” by Leza Lowitz

Leza Lowitz shares her emotional journey towards marriage and motherhood in Japan (as well as opening a yoga studio in Tokyo) in “Here Comes the Sun”. Learn more through my interview with Leza.

“My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy” & “My Japanese Husband (Still) Thinks I’m Crazy” by Grace Mineta

If you’re a fan of graphic novels and you’re curious about Japan, you don’t want to miss these charming comics by Grace Mineta. Learn more through my interviews (here and here) with Grace.

“At Home in Japan: A Foreign Woman’s Journey of Discovery” by Rebecca Otowa

Rebecca’s book explores her 30 years as the foreign housewife of a Japanese man in their 350-year-old farmhouse in Japan’s countryside, a home that you might argue is one of the most important characters in the story.

“Love, Again: The Wisdom of Unexpected Romance” by Eve Pell

At 68, Eve fell for Sam Hirabayashi, a man 10 years her senior. She wrote about it for The New York Times, and the overwhelming response from readers helped spark this memoir exploring late-in-life love through her own relationship and others.

“The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam” by Dana Sachs

Dana truly followed her heart in moving to Vietnam when, in the course of learning the language and later teaching, she landed into an unlikely relationship with a local Vietnamese man. She writes about it with honesty and vulnerability, which made her a delightful narrator.

The Good Shufu“The Good Shufu” by Tracy Slater

“The Good Shufu” by Tracy Slater is a heartfelt story about love & life abroad that proves sometimes those unexpected detours lead us to incredible joy. Learn more through my interview with Tracy.

Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self“Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self” by Alex Tizon

Alex Tizon’s memoir “Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self” offers a personal view on Asian masculinity in the West — and is a book you must read. Learn more through my interview with Alex.

“Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband” by Wendy Tokunaga

I connected so much with the experiences of the women interviewed by Wendy that I almost thought it could have been “Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Chinese Husband.” (Sorry, John.) It’s not one memoir, but more like a collection brought together.

Year of Fire Dragons“Year of Fire Dragons” by Shannon Young

“Year of Fire Dragons” details the life-changing year Shannon Young spent in Hong Kong while in a long-distance relationship with her Eurasian boyfriend. Learn more through my interview with Shannon.

What memoirs did I miss? What would you recommend?

Need a Good Summer Read? Try These 28 Books Featured on the Blog

Today Hangzhou, China will reach a sizzling 36 degrees Celsius (that’s 97 degrees Fahrenheit). When the weather heats up, I love nothing better than curling up with a good book during the summer.

I’ve featured so many great books over the years, and many of them could be the perfect companion to your summer this year.

So whether you’re chilling out on the beach or cooling down indoors, here’s my list of recommended summer reads I’ve featured here on the blog, listed in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name. (P.S.: These titles are linked to Amazon, where your purchases help support this blog.)

#1: “There’s Something I Want to Tell You: True Stories of Mixed Dating in Japan” by Yuta Aoki

Yuta Aoki’s book shares the stories of 15 different people spanning 8 nationalities who dated Japanese locals, and explores the cultural dynamics. Learn more through my interview with Yuta.

#2: “Good Chinese Wife” by Susan Blumberg-Kason

When it comes to the success of a cross-cultural relationship, does culture or personality matter more? Susan Blumberg-Kason’s gripping memoir “Good Chinese Wife: A Love Affair With China Gone Wrong” offers a very personal answer to that question. Learn more through my interview with Susan.

#3: “Tone Deaf in Bangkok” by Janet Brown

It’s never too late to follow your heart to Asia. Just ask writer Janet Brown, who went to Thailand at age 45 and fell in love with the people and places. Learn more through my interview with Janet.

 

Quincy Carroll#4: “Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside” by Quincy Carroll

This novel explores the clash between two Americans (a deadbeat and an idealist) teaching English in China, and the student who comes between them. Learn more through my interview with Quincy.

#5: “The Reluctant Brides of Lily Court Lane” by Susan Chan

“The Reluctant Brides of Lily Court Lane” is an easy breezy love story that reads like one of my favorite romantic comedies on the screen. Learn more through my interview with Susan.

#6: “Tiger Tail Soup” by Nicki Chen

In “Tiger Tail Soup”, Nicki Chen transports us to a place you don’t often find in wartime China literature – Fujian Province’s Gulangyu Island. Learn more through my interview with Nicki.

#7: “A Bollywood Affair” by Sonali Dev

“A Bollywood Affair” is such a unique and enchanting book that, even if you’ve sworn off the romance genre, you must read it. Learn more through my interview with Sonali.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes#8: “The Girl Who Wrote in Silk” by Kelli Estes

“The Girl Who Wrote in Silk” by Kelli Estes links two women across centuries to a silk embroidered sleeve in a story of love, courage and humanity. Learn more through my interview with Kelli.

#9: “Love Me Anyway” by Tiffany Hawk

Tiffany Hawk offers an inside look into being a flight attendant — along with some AMWF romance — in her coming-of-age debut novel, “Love Me Anyway.” Learn more through my interview with Tiffany.

 

#10: “Pearl River Drama: Dating in China” by Ray Hecht

Ray doesn’t shy away from letting you into his utterly imperfect love life, and ultimately he comes across as a genuinely nice foreign guy just looking for love in China. Learn more through my interview with Ray.

#11: “South China Morning Blues” by Ray Hecht

Through 12 viewpoints, South China Morning Blues takes readers on a tour of the underside of the expat scene in China. It’s a fresh take on modern China. Learn more through my interview with Ray.

The Porcelain Thief#12: “The Porcelain Thief” by Huan Hsu

“The Porcelain Thief” deftly combines Huan Hsu’s personal experiences as a Chinese American in China, family stories, and his quest for buried porcelain. Learn more through my interview with Huan.

#13: “A Field Guide to Happiness” by Linda Leaming

Linda Leaming’s new book “A Field Guide to Happiness: What I Learned in Bhutan about Living, Loving, and Waking Up” reads like a love letter to Bhutan. Learn more through my interview with Linda.

Here Comes the Sun by Leza Lowitz#14: “Here Comes the Sun: A Journey to Adoption in 8 Chakras” by Leza Lowitz

Leza Lowitz shares her emotional journey towards marriage and motherhood in Japan (as well as opening a yoga studio in Tokyo) in “Here Comes the Sun”. Learn more through my interview with Leza.

#15: “My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy” & #16: “My Japanese Husband (Still) Thinks I’m Crazy” by Grace Mineta

If you’re a fan of graphic novels and you’re curious about Japan, you don’t want to miss these charming comics by Grace Mineta. Learn more through my interviews (here and here) with Grace.

#17: “Parsley & Coriander” by Antonella Moretti

“Parsley & Coriander” is a delightful novel that captures the spirit of finding your own path in China, especially as an expat woman. Learn more through my interview with Antonella.

#18: “Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng

“Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng is a dark, powerful tale of an AMWF family in America facing a tragedy. Learn more through my interview with Celeste.

#19: “The Empress of Bright Moon” by Weina Dai Randel

Weina Randel has crafted a beautifully written, engaging and suspenseful tale of how one of the greatest rulers in China came to rise. You can learn more about this second chapter of the duology by reading Weina’s guest post on sex education during Tang Dynasty China.

The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel#20: “The Moon in the Palace” by Weina Dai Randel

“The Moon in the Palace” by Weina Dai Randel, about the rise of China’s young Empress Wu, truly reads like a Tang Dynasty-era Cinderella story. Learn more through my interview with Weina.

#21: “The Secret of the Nightingale Palace” by Dana Sachs

The romance at the heart of this novel — which relates to its intriguing title — just stole my heart away. Plus, the book explores a side of World War II that we all too often forget — the US internment of Japanese Americans. Learn more through my interview with Dana.

The Good Shufu#22: “The Good Shufu” by Tracy Slater

“The Good Shufu” by Tracy Slater is a heartfelt story about love & life abroad that proves sometimes those unexpected detours lead us to incredible joy. Learn more through my interview with Tracy.

 

#23: “Empire of Glass” by Kaitlin Solimine

“Empire of Glass” is stunning for its lyrical prose and unique in that it’s presented as a “translation” of the story of Li-Ming and her husband Wang. Learn more through my interview with Kaitlin.

Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self#24: “Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self” by Alex Tizon

Alex Tizon’s memoir “Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self” offers a personal view on Asian masculinity in the West — and is a book you must read. Learn more through my interview with Alex.

Atom Yang Red Envelope#25: “Red Envelope” by Atom Yang

Thanks to Atom Yang’s exceptional writing and sense of humor, Red Envelope is a fun, romantic romp through the most wonderful time of the year for Chinese. Learn more through my interview with Atom.

#26: “Ferry Tale: A Hong Kong Love Story” by Shannon Young

It’s as enchanting as any big-screen rom com – but better, thanks to the Hong Kong setting and charming AMWF couple. Learn more through this post on Ferry Tale.

#27: “How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asia” edited by Shannon Young

For me, this is the rarest of all anthologies. I actually devoured it from cover to cover in record time, and found something to love in all the essays — regardless of the story. You’ll also find my essay “Huangshan Honeymoon” featured in this collection. Learn more about my essay and 12 other essays you’ll want to read.

Year of Fire Dragons#28: “Year of Fire Dragons” by Shannon Young

“Year of Fire Dragons” details the life-changing year Shannon Young spent in Hong Kong while in a long-distance relationship with her Eurasian boyfriend. Learn more through my interview with Shannon.

2015 Gift Recommendations For Books Featured On This Blog

The Good Shufu

Does your 2015 holiday shopping list include book lovers? Over the past year, I’ve featured a lot of fantastic books on this blog (including AMWF titles); they could also make amazing gifts for that special someone in your life.

I’ve listed them in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name, along with a recommendation for who would love it and a link to my interview with the author. Happy holidays! (Note: titles are linked to Amazon.com, where your purchase helps support this blog.)

For people fascinated with intercultural relationships:

There's Something I Want To Tell You: True Stories of Mixed Dating in Japan

There’s Something I Want to Tell You: True Stories of Mixed Dating in Japan by Yuta Aoki (Read my interview with Yuta)

For anyone who loves an easy, breezy romance:

The Reluctant Brides of Lily Court Lane

The Reluctant Brides of Lily Court Lane by Susan Chan (Read my interview with Susan)

For readers who want a smashing good romance novel (with a little Bollywood flair):

ABOLLYWOODAFFAIR_Cover

A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev (Read my interview with Sonali)

For fans of expat stories set in China:

Pearl River Drama: Dating in China

Pearl River Drama: Dating in China by Ray Hecht (Read my interview with Ray) SouthChinaMorningBlues_800

South China Morning Blues by Ray Hecht (Read my interview with Ray)

For fans of Chinese history and culture:

The Porcelain Thief

The Porcelain Thief by Huan Hsu (Read my interview with Huan)

For fans of Eat, Pray, Love:

Here Comes the Sun by Leza Lowitz

Here Comes the Sun: A Journey to Adoption in 8 Chakras by Leza Lowitz (Read my interview with Leza)

The Good Shufu

The Good Shufu by Tracy Slater (Read my interview with Tracy)

For anyone who loves comics and stories about the ups and downs of living abroad:

My Japanese Husband (Still) Thinks I'm Crazy_

My Japanese Husband (Still) Thinks I’m Crazy by Grace Buchele Mineta (Read my interview with Grace)

For fans of Lisa See’s China novels:

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Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip (Read my interview with Mingmei)

For readers who love coming-of-age stories:

Year of Fire Dragons

Year of Fire Dragons by Shannon Young (Read my interview with Shannon)

What books do you think would make great Christmas gifts?

Interview with Tracy Slater on Her New Memoir “The Good Shufu”

The Good Shufu

Some of the people who knew me growing up still can’t believe that I ended up in China as a writer and blogger who is also fluent in Chinese. I spent most of my adolescence and college preparing for a career in field biology. Nothing about my life pointed straight to China. But here I am.

When I look back on how much I’ve evolved and grown here – how I’ve carved out a totally different life that, in the end, fits me perfectly – I’m grateful for having been lost after graduation and making that last-minute decision to come to China. I’m grateful that I’ve created a home for myself in this country, right down to finding a wonderful Chinese husband.

Still, my story is nothing compared to what Tracy Slater details in her new memoir, The Good Shufu.

The Good Shufu

An independent feminist, Tracy was living her dream in Boston. She was an academic with a PhD in English teaching writing to graduate students, just as she always wanted. She had a nice apartment of her own in the city. She belonged to a supportive circle of friends who shared her values. And most of all, she resided in the one city she adored most.

Everything was just as it should be.

But then she met Toru, a Japanese salaryman who was one of her students in an EFL program in Asia, and unexpectedly fell deeply in love with him. For the first time, she was willing to step away from her life in Boston to try building a life with him in Japan, where her world is turned completely upside down.

The Good Shufu is a heartfelt story that captures all of the wonder and frustrations of creating a new life abroad with someone you love, and proves how those unexpected detours sometimes lead to more joy than we could ever imagine. It’s one of the best memoirs I’ve picked up in 2015 and I strongly recommend it to everyone reading this blog.

It is my pleasure and honor to introduce you to Tracy Slater and The Good Shufu.

Tracy Slater

Here’s Tracy Slater’s bio from Penguin Random House:

Tracy Slater is the founder of Four Stories, a global literary series in Boston, Osaka, and Tokyo, for which she was awarded the PEN New England’s Friend to Writers Award in 2008. An essay on her bi-continental life was published in Best Women’s Travel Writing 2008, and her writing has appeared in The Boston GlobeBoston MagazineThe Chronicle Review, and the New York Times Motherlode blog.

You can learn more about Tracy Slater at her website and her blog and also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

For those of you who are in Japan or will be heading there soon, why not catch Tracy Slater in person – along with Grace of Texan in Tokyo and Leza Lowitz (author of Here Comes The Sun) – on September 27 for a special Four Stories evening in Tokyo called “Married to the Mob: Love, Travel & Life as a Gaijin Wife”. See this post for more details.

I asked Tracy about everything from the New York Times article that kickstarted the memoir and what drew her to Toru to the close relationship she ended up forming with her father-in-law in Japan.

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Your book came about because of a New York Times article you wrote titled “Why I Won’t Adopt.” Could you tell us a little more about how you came to write that article and then how it ended up inspiring an entire memoir?

I was almost 45 and almost at the tail end of 4+ years of fertility treatments and 2 pretty heart-rending pregnancy losses, all undergone in Japan, where I speak very little of the language. I hadn’t written anything—I mean anything—in a few years because of all of this, but then one day, just off the cuff, I sent a pitch to the editor of the New York Times Motherlode blog about the difference between the desire to have a biological child and the desire to be a parent.

She published the piece (although it originally had a less explosive title), and a few days later, an editor at Putnam emailed me and asked if I’d be interested in submitting a memoir proposal. I was shocked! And delighted! And still totally infertile! So while all I wanted to do was crawl under the covers and hide from the world and my twice-daily-in-the-stomach-blood-thinner shots that my clinic in Osaka thought I needed to have any chance of sustaining a pregnancy, I signed up for a course on nonfiction proposal writing through MediaBistro, wrote a proposal and four sample chapters, submitted it to Putnam, and they offered me a deal.

Working on the book turnout out to be a kind of godsend, because it helped me cope with coming to terms with turning 45 and abandoning our medical quest to try to have a child, since virtually any doctor will tell you that after 44, your chances of conceiving with your own egg are basically zero. This experience and my immersion into grief because of it is an issue I write about a little bit towards the end of the memoir. My husband and I were still trying to naturally, but I was pretty convinced it wouldn’t work and that we were never going to meet our baby–although he remained hopeful.

In any case, the book was supposed to end with me turning 45 and my husband and I being in a childless but still very meaningful marriage. Then, six months before I was supposed to turn in the whole manuscript, when I was 45 and a half, I became pregnant–naturally, if you can believe it. (I sometimes still cannot!) Needless to say, the ending of the book had to change. I handed in the final manuscript, and two weeks later, at four months past my 46th birthday, I gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby girl. As I write in the acknowledgements of the book, our daughter gave me a happier ending than I could have ever dared to dream.

Your memoir centers around your relationship with Toru, a Japanese salaryman who you met while teaching English in Japan. Even though you write about only dating white men in your hometown of Boston before meeting Toru, had you ever been attracted to Asian men before?

Well, Ken Watanabe, of course! Otherwise, I’m not totally sure—which may sound like a clop-out but is true. I didn’t marry Toru until I was 39, so I’d be dating for a lot of years and must have, at some point, come across Asian men I was attracted to. I’d never officially dated someone Asian before, though.

Regarding your attraction to Toru, you wrote that “I’d finally fallen in love with a man I actually liked.” Could you talk a little more about what drew you to Toru?

Toru was so different from anyone I’d ever met, in some ways. He’s so calm, mainly, and besides how he looked, it was his calmness that drew me to him immediately. I’m not a calm person at all, and I found his quietness, his repose, really soothing to me. As I write in the book, it felt a little like having had a motor running at too high a speed somewhere inside me all my life, and then with Toru, that motor recalibrated to turn at the right pace. Some of that, I’m sure, was just from the security of being in a lasting relationship, but some of it I believe also comes from the equanimity with which he seems to approach the world.

What was your biggest misconception about Japan and/or Japanese men?

I’m still working out some of my biggest misconceptions about Japan, actually! It’s such a foreign cultural in many ways to my native one, and it’s such a closed society too, even if you’re married into a Japanese family, so there is a lot Im still working out—which provides both frustration and a lot of fascination, for me. (This is a dichotomy I also write about a bit in the book.) I think the biggest thing I’m wondering about and working out now concerns women and power. Japan seems like such an unequal place in terms of gender. Women are vastly underrepresented in positions of power in business and government, for instance. But women do seem to wield a fair amount of power in the home. One thing I was shocked to learn is that women control the “family purse.” Most men hand their earnings over to their wives and their wives parcel out money for the family budget.

We don’t work this way in my family b/c 1) Toru is much better at budgeting than me (I’d probably spend our whole budget on shoes in one week…) and 2) my Japanese isn’t nearly good enough to handle tasks like household bills.

I don’t mind this because I feel that we are quite equal in other ways. Also, Toru is pretty unusual and open-minded, despite his traditional-seeming surface of being a salaryman. After all, he did marry a rather mouthy foreigner!

You’ve written about making friends with other expat women, many of whom have married Japanese men. Have you made close friendships with Japanese women?

I haven’t become close friends with any Japanese women. Friendships here seem very different than in the US, and a few of the Japanese women I’ve become friends with have made me realize that friends usually have much different boundaries here. (I do have expat friends who have made close Japanese friends, so I know this can’t be taken as a blanket statement, but it’s true in my case.) In the U.S., and especially in the Northeast, it’s pretty normal to talk about relatively personal stuff without knowing someone very well (or to write a memoir for strangers to read!). Here, there are usually much stricter divisions between public and private.

Now that I have a toddler, though, I meet a lot more Japanese women through our daughter’s daycare or our neighborhood play-spaces, so I’m starting to spend more time with these new friends. It feels hard sometimes because my Japanese is terrible and most people here speak very limited English, and because the boundaries around friendships seem different, but I’m looking forward to learning more about these Japanese womens’ lives.

One of the most touching things in your story is your relationship with Toru’s father, which deepens over the course of the book. Your closeness to him stands in stark contrast to your strained relationship with your father. Why do you think you were able to form such a close relationship with Toru’s father?

I wouldn’t say my relationship with my own father is strained necessarily, especially now that I’m an adult, but it’s true that he’s much less of a typical “family man” than Toru’s father was, or maybe than the average father is. I don’t think he ever really wanted children, and in his generation, I don’t think not having them was much of an option. He’s not an overly involved father, and wasn’t when we were little, but he is a very nice man, and a very funny man, and in his own way I know he loves me and his other children, so I try to remember the limited choices he had as a young man that people in my generation didn’t face.

Toru’s father, though, seemed to have a much less complicated relationship to fatherhood, and there was something in that I found very soothing and wonderful. On the other hand, he didn’t speak much English, and I don’t speak much Japanese, so there as a sort of forced simplicity to our relationship that, perhaps paradoxically, I also found very soothing. I write about this in the book, both in relationship to Toru’s father and to my bond with Toru as well. The idea that I don’t speak the same language fluently—or near fluently—with my husband or his family seems to be one of the hardest for others to accept about my book. But I’ve found it very unexpectedly true, in my case at least, that when you are forced to keep communication to a simpler level, sometimes the bond becomes more pure, less complicated. Especially for someone like me, for whom, analyzing everything sometimes gets me into trouble.

In truth, maybe Toru’s father had a more complicated relationship to fatherhood than I ever knew, but it wasn’t something we discussed, because we didn’t discuss a lot. We just took care of each other—he took care of me when I first moved to Japan and I took care of him when he began to die—and there was a quiet and loveliness in that. It may seems strange—and it was to me at first—but it’s very true, and it’s a truth I feel grateful to have learned and know I wouldn’t have learned had I married someone from my own culture or whose native language was the same as mine.

You’ve always been a fiercely independent feminist who swore she would never be a housewife. Yet as you spend more time in Japan, your life becomes domestic in ways that never would have happened to you in Boston, such as how you prepare dinners for Toru and his father (and enjoy it). Could you talk a little about why you felt more comfortable doing cooking and other housework in a foreign country and culture?

Here’s 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, gives me a sort of remove from what might otherwise be threatening to me, because it feels so circumscribed, so contained, especially 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, it 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—that would be too much for me, to bow to my own husband, although I do call him “the shogun” sometimes…)

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. 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 very grateful and happy to be in a marriage that works–as well as in one that I know has the strength to change if need be.

What do you hope people come away with after reading your story?

Mostly, I hope people just feel like they’ve gotten caught up in a great love and travel story, because that’s the part of reading I love the best, the getting-caught-up-in-the-story part. And I’d be really happy if I knew I could give that to other people from my own writing.

But on a deeper level, I hope people who are facing paths very different from the ones they ever planned on following, find some level of comfort or hope in my story, some level of assurance that sometimes we can give up or swerve off of our strict plan and end up right where we are supposed to be.

Marrying a Japanese salaryman, moving to his country, giving up much of my life as a fiercely independent Boston academic, and becoming essentially an illiterate housewife in Japan—these were all pretty much diametrically opposed to what I’d always planned and even hoped for myself. But this is the path where I found the greatest love, security, and even sense of rootedness I’ve ever known.

As I write in the book, I learned that you can’t properly find yourself until you let yourself get lost in the first place. I spent much of my adult life, before Toru, doing everything I could not to get lost. And in the end, getting lost was what I needed most in order to find the life that fit me the best (or a life that fits me really well, at least). This is a lesson I’m still relying on, actually, as I navigate new motherhood i my late 40s in a foreign land! But more on that in the next book, I hope!

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Thank you so much to Tracy Slater for this interview! The Good Shufu is available at Amazon.com, where your purchase helps support this site. You can learn more about Tracy Slater at her website and her blog and also follow her on Twitter and Facebook. And if you’d like to meet her in person in Japan, don’t miss her special Four Stories event in Tokyo on September 27.

Enter to Win 3 AMWF Memoirs of Love, Travel and Life in Asia (Ends July 7)!

If you love stories of real-life AMWF couples, here’s your chance to win a bundle of three AMWF memoirs of love, travel and life in Asia! This giveaway is open to ANYONE in the world and it ends July 7.

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Longtime readers know about Year of Fire Dragons by Shannon Young and Here Comes the Sun by Leza Lowitz — two books I’ve already featured on the blog (see Shannon’s guest post and my recent interview with Leza). On top of these fantastic titles, the bundle includes The Good Shufu by Tracy Slater (note, I’ll be running an interview with Tracy here on the blog later on).

One winner will be randomly selected to receive ALL THREE books. Want to win? Scroll down this post to enter the giveaway!

The Good Shufu by Tracy Slater

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

The Good Shufu is a true story of multicultural love, marriage, and mixups. When Tracy Slater, a highly independent American academic, falls head-over-heels in love with the least likely person in the world–a traditional Japanese salaryman who barely speaks English–she must choose between the existence she’d meticulously planned in the US and life as an illiterate housewife in Osaka. Rather than an ordinary travel memoir, this is a book about building a whole life in a language you don’t speak and a land you can barely navigate, and yet somehow finding a truer sense of home and meaning than ever before. A Summer ’15 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection, The Good Shufu is a celebration of the life least expected: messy, overwhelming, and deeply enriching in its complications.
Putnam/Penguin, June 30, 2015

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Year of Fire Dragons: An American Woman’s Story of Coming of Age in Hong Kong
By Shannon Young

In 2010, bookish 22-year-old Shannon follows her Eurasian boyfriend to Hong Kong, eager to forge a new love story in his hometown. She thinks their long distance romance is over, but a month later his company sends him to London. Shannon embarks on a wide-eyed newcomer’s journey through Hong Kong—alone. She teaches in a local school as the only foreigner, explores Asia with other young expats, and discovers a family history of her own in Hong Kong. The city enchants her, forcing her to question her plans. Soon, she must make a choice between her new life and the love that first brought her to Asia. Susan Blumberg-Kason, author of Good Chinese Wife, has called Year of Fire Dragons “a riveting coming of age story” and “a testament to the distance people will travel for love.”
Blacksmith Books, June 15, 2015

Here Comes the Sun by Leza Lowitz

Here Comes the Sun: A Journey to Adoption in 8 Chakras
By Leza Lowitz

At 30, Californian Leza Lowitz is single and traveling the world, which suits her just fine. Coming of age in Berkeley during the feminist revolution of the 1970s, she learned that marriage and family could wait. Or could they? When Leza moves to Japan and falls in love with a Japanese man, her heart opens in ways she never thought possible. But she’s still an outsider, and home is far away. Rather than struggle to fit in, she opens a yoga studio and makes a home for others. Then, at 44, Leza and her Japanese husband seek to adopt—in a country where bloodlines are paramount and family ties are almost feudal in their cultural importance. She travels to India to work on herself and back to California to deal with her past. Something is still not complete until she learns that when you give a little love to a child, you get the whole world in return. The author’s deep connection to yoga shows her that infertile does not mean inconceivable. By adapting and adopting, she transcends her struggles and embraces the joys of motherhood. “Here Comes the Sun proves that love is not bound by blood. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in that which connects us, holds us together, and makes us family.”—MC Yogi
Stonebridge Press, June 2015

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Enter the giveaway right now through the Rafflecopter widget below. (Folks in China, you must use a VPN to access the giveaway.)

You can also click on this link to enter the giveaway. It ends July 7, so don’t wait! And best of luck to everyone!

The Next Big Thing: On “Red All Over,” My Forthcoming Memoir

(At my wedding banquet in China, posing with one of our guests)

I am thrilled that Susan Blumberg-Kason invited me to participate in the The Next Big Thing, an Internet meme where writers answer questions about their latest or forthcoming works.

Susan is the author of the forthcoming memoir Good Chinese Wife. This book traces the five years she spent trying to assimilate into a Chinese family, after jumping quickly into marriage with a Chinese man. But over time, she comes to reconsider what she thought it meant to be a wife, have a family, and raise a child — and faces the tough choice of whether or not to leave her Chinese family.

I’ve read portions of her memoir, and I can honestly say it’s a gripping story written from the heart. I loved Susan as a narrator because she shares so many of her vulnerabilities on the page. I liked the unusual, non-linear structure of her book as well, which really adds to the drama of her story and keeps you turning the pages.

And I’m sure many of you, like myself, can’t wait to get your hands on Susan’s book. To learn more, check out her Next Big Thing post from last week, or read the brief introduction to Good Chinese Wife on her website.

Now for my interview questions, which I’ll follow with introductions to several authors to watch for. Continue reading “The Next Big Thing: On “Red All Over,” My Forthcoming Memoir”