I am AI, We are AI (and other thoughts about indigo)

I have been thinking about indigo a lot lately.

My forthcoming novel, Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible, is about a biracial girl whose father is an indigo farmer and dyer in Tokushima. The inspiration for this is rooted in an interview I did about ten years ago with indigo farmer/textile artist Rowland Ricketts III, an American who apprenticed with dyers and farmers in Tokushima. At the time of our interview, he was living in Shimane Prefecture, where his Japanese wife, Chinami, studied weaving, and where he continued to grow and dye indigo.

Here is the end of my published article:

Eventually, he hopes to collaborate  with Chinami, dyeing fabrics that she has woven herself.

“We want to start with  a handful of cotton seeds and indigo seeds and, with the help of nature, transform them into textiles.

Ricketts also has large-scale plans, and is trying to organize an exhibition of indigo in the United States. “I want to explain to Americans what Japanese indigo is, from sukumo, starting with the seeds.” 

It’s still in the planning stages,” he says of the exhibition. “Nothing happens quickly – I learned that from farming.”

Now, Ricketts is growing and dyeing and teaching in Indiana. His full scale exhibition has been achieved. Today, my daughter and I took in his indigo installation, the final event in a multi-faceted program – I am Ai, We are Ai. It’s always good to know that with hard work and dedication, dreams do indeed come true.

Of Princesses and Prose

We narrowly missed Princess Masako’s  (er, Prince Naruhito’s) motorcade on Friday.  There were policemen at every corner when I went to pick up Lilia at the deaf school, and also clusters of on-lookers, preparing to wave their little Japanese flags.

Princess Masako has made the front page of the newspaper two days in a row.  She looks well, in her beige pantsuits, with her Chanel handbag, but it’s hard to tell her state of mind.  This is her first public appearance in five months.

Speaking of princesses, I was both intrigued and dismayed to learn that John Burnham Schwartz has a new novel coming out.  The novel, entitled The Commoner, is inspired by the life of Empress Michiko, who has had many stress-related health problems of her own.  There is also a Masako-type princess in the story.  The book got a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly.  It’ s going to be published in January, the same month as my novel, Losing Kei.  Of course I’m going to read it, but this book has obliterated any slim chance I had of having my own novel mentioned in Vogue, Vanity Fair, etc.  There’ s no way they would mention two novels about Japan in one issue, and Schwartz, who has already published three novels, one of which has been made into a major motion picture, and who writes features for Vogue and is obivously well-connected, will get all the ink. 


The galleys of my first novel, Losing Kei, have arrived.  These are the pre-publication copies of the book that are being sent to potential reviewers.  I loved the cover before, but I love it even more because I think that the child facing the camera is deaf. 

My daughter’s tutor was examining the badge on the child’s uniform and made out the letters for “rougakko,” which means, “deaf school.”  I showed it to a couple of other people, and they confirmed it.  And the more I look at it, the more I think it looks like “rougakko.” 

The child in my story isn’t deaf, but I have a deaf child, so this secret detail gives the cover a special meaning for me.