Encouraged by her mother, Kyoko Mori began writing at an early age, winning essay contests in grade school. Her grandfather taught writing, and her mother’s family, reduced to near poverty after World War II as a result of their land having been redistributed, emphasized education, writing, and an appreciation of culture. Her mother fostered an appreciation of nature and art and encouraged her to apply to a nontraditional high school. In 1969, Mori was accepted and began classes one month after her mother’s suicide.
Much of Mori’s writing focuses on coming to terms with her mother’s suicide. An appreciation of her mother’s influence underlies these works, despite her discernible disquiet over the suicide. After her mother’s death, Mori lived with her abusive father and manipulative stepmother until 1973, when she left Japan for the first time to attend a year of high school in Arizona. Mori then moved to the United States permanently to study writing, receiving her B.A. from Rockford College and her Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee in 1984.
In 1990, Mori returned to Japan for the first time in thirteen years. This trip is the subject of The Dream of Water, which develops themes that appear throughout Mori’s work: her mother’s suicide, her relationship with her father, and the attempt to find a home between two cultures.
Mori feels somewhat out of place and a bit surprised to be living in the United States (“in a small Wisconsin town where the old women in diners don’t look anything like my grandmother”). She also felt a “mixture of familiarity and strangeness,” “fondness and regret” when she returned to Japan. “Home” is not a stable concept; she described the trip as “going from one foreign place to another.”
Mori’s writing can be seen as a way of establishing connections between these two cultures: “Most of my short stories are set in Japan, and my poems tend to juxtapose my memories of Japan with my life in the Midwest.” Her work is also intended to give voice to her mother and to women in Japan, whose expression is restricted by a traditional, masculine culture. She perceives her identity “as a writer, not as a wife,” unlike the women she describes in Japan.
Kyoko Mori was born in Kobe, Japan, in 1957 and immigrated to the United States in 1977, at the age of twenty. She attended St. Norbert's College in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she now works as an associate professor of English and teaches creative writing. Mori is a naturalized American citizen and disdainful of the social restrictions placed upon women in Japan; she considers herself "more American than Japanese." She had a difficult life growing up in Japan; when Mori was just twelve years old, her mother committed suicide which left her to live with her father and stepmother, who were cruel and abusive to her.
In 1993 Mori published her first novel, Shizuko's Daughter, which is an autobiographical work based on her own unhappy childhood. She followed this novel with The Dream of Water, a memoir that further recounts her difficult life following her mother's suicide. Shizuko's Daughter won the New York Times Notable Book of the Year award and Publishers Weekly's Editor's Choice Best Book of 1993. Mori has also published poetry and short stories in literary journals and magazines, and she wrote one more young adult novel, entitled One Bird, then a book of essays comparing life in Japan and America entitled Polite Lies: On Being a Woman Caught between Cultures. Her books have been translated into Japanese and published in Japan, and she frequently makes comments for Japanese magazines and newspapers on the role of women in both American and Japanese society.
Kyoko Mori was born in Kobe, Japan, in 1957 and immigrated to the United States in 1977, at the age of twenty. She got her bachelor's degree in English from Rockford College in Illinois, her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee and she...
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