The plot of Kyoko Mori’s first novel, Shizuko’s Daughter, published in New York in 1993, follows a story line very similar to the author’s own life. The female protagonist of the story experiences very difficult and often traumatic experiences as she is growing up, such as the suicidal death of her mother and the harsh treatment she receives from her father and stepmother. The novel explores the challenging reality of a young, pubescent girl who is living in Japan and who rebels against the strict discipline imposed upon her by her father and the Japanese culture. For many reasons, she is often alone throughout the story. One cause of her loneliness is that she does not relate to others who accept their status in life without questioning it.
The idea of the novel began as a short story that Mori wrote during the summer while she was in graduate school. In an article titled “Staying True to the Story,” for The Writer, Mori states that this short story was “the first story in which I was able to write about what I knew but didn’t understand.” She explains that at first she used to write about things that she understood “all too well.” This, however, bored her. “There was no mystery in it for me, let alone for my readers,” she writes. So she began by thinking about her grandmother’s life, about her relationship with her grandmother, about what her mother’s life might have been like, and finally about what her own life would have been like if she’d done things just a little differently. It was from these considerations that Shizuko’s Daughter was born.
Stating her philosophy about writing in “Staying True to the Story,” Mori comments, “each character comes to us already half-formed, in the midst of his or her conflict. Our job as writers is to define and develop that conflict, to follow and ponder the story that unfolds.” This philosophy is very clearly followed in this, her first novel.