Findings in fractions

Music Scores at the Seattle Central Public Library

Here’s a paradox to consider. I’ve got a lot to think about, so you’ll have to look past the academic scaffolding.

First premise: There are very few traces of my dad on the Internet.

You can Google “Taku Nimura,” or “Taku Frank Nimura,” and there isn’t very much connected to him, or who he was. I have active e-mail accounts, a Facebook account, a Twitter account, a page… and as a new daughter of this digital age, it makes me sad that you can’t Google my dad*, for lack of a better term. You can’t find his obituary, the most stripped-down version of a life outline (except for the tombstone inscription), in online newspaper archives.

(Maybe I will create a Wikipedia page about him, but there’s still so much that I need to know. And one wonders: if what makes someone “historic” is debatable, what makes someone Wikipedia-page-worthy?)

And so I wonder about the countless individuals who do not have an online presence, even now; I wonder about the connection between the Internet and identity. I’m not saying that Google should be the only way to find out information, but it’s the first stop for so many, for so much. I wonder about the impact technology will have on my daughters, and the impact it’s had so far. I wonder about them finding out more about their grandfather, in an age where they can’t find him, through search engines that mark their findings in fractions of a second.

Second premise: And yet, Internet technology gave me these things:

1. Pictures I’d never seen before of my dad, from a long-lost friend of his on Facebook. “Are those his granddaughters I’m looking at in your profile picture?” she asks. And that’s a relationship I had not yet connected with my father: he would be a grandfather, my daughters would be his granddaughters.

2. A blog comment here, from someone who knew my dad—during a time when I know so little about his life. I’m not sure we would have found each other without the Internet. I’m so excited to find out more.

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to realize this next thought, and my ten-year-old self would have resisted this, I’m sure. But here goes: my dad never belonged just to me, or just to my family. He also ventolin usa belonged to his friends, and other communities I’d never known or seen. The memoir that my sister and I are writing, then, may not be just a “dual” or “triple” memoir; it may also be something like a community memoir. I want to ask more people what they remember about him.

3. His Masters thesis in Public Administration and a bibliography that he wrote about Japanese in the United States. (Coming soon from Interlibrary loan, more Internet: cross your fingers!)

4. And this page from the California State Sacramento Library catalog, which makes me so happy. Taking my cue from my wonderful university reference librarians, I know that Google does not see everything. There is, however, a great deal of less-Google-able information, available from libraries.

5. A bookstore in Sacramento selling a poetry anthology; one of the poets is my dad.

Last part of the paradox: what does it mean?

Perhaps more obviously, search engines can erase (or obscure) an identity, but it can also restore an identity, in completely unexpected ways.

In the project I want to think more about what that means about humanity’s urges to record, document, remember. Google might not get me a quick answer about my dad, and I’m not sure I want it to do that, anyway. But I can still find him—or fractions of him—through these vast oceans of time and memory.

Despite our rapid technological changes, I think he would have loved our here and now. He wrote so many letters to friends and family. (My first copyediting job, by the way: proofreading those typewritten letters.) I think he’d have an active Facebook account, to share pictures of his granddaughters. And I can almost see him writing witty status updates. Like me, I think he’d share anecdotes about his family, menus of evening dinners, pictures from his travels.

Librarians, writers, readers: our human urge is to connect.

In the book I’ll be writing more about each of these artifacts. For now, I’m remembering that writing the book is one way to put my father’s presence back in the world.

The paradox rephrased: I’m writing both through, and despite, a technology and history that might otherwise erase my father.

*The dystopic novel I’m reading right now–set in the “not so distant future” describes such a person as “ITP” (Impossible To Preserve).

This picture says a lot about where, how, and why I’m traveling, taken at the Seattle Central Public Library:

Summer reading lists, 2010

Recently completed reading

  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King
  • Juliet, Naked, by Nick Hornby
  • The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp
  • Committed, by Elizabeth Gilbert

Reading right now (In media re[ad]s)

  • War Dances, by Sherman Alexie
  • The Calligrapher’s Daughter, by Eugenia Kim
  • The Guardians, by Ana Castillo

Reading returned to the library, without reading in its entirety

  • South of Broad, by Pat Conroy (I like his books, but tire of his one protagonist with the same mother issues.)
  • Sparkle Life, by Kara Lindstrom (Beware the book that needs “sex” on its book jacket description, twice.)

Reading on the bedside table: on deck

  • The Surrendered, by Chang-Rae Lee
  • Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire, by David Mura
  • Shadow Tag, by Louise Erdrich

Reading that may require more quiet and commitment than I’ve got right now (and that I hope to get to eventually)

  • Baltasar and Blimunda, by José Saramago
  • The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver

Reading I haven’t bought yet

  • The Stieg generic ventolin albuterol Larsson novels (anyone want to loan me these?)
  • I-Hotel, by Karen Tei Yamashita
  • Medium Raw, by Anthony Bourdain

On my hold list at the library

  • The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender

A few favorite rereadings in bits and pieces:

  • Three Junes, by Julia Glass
  • The Sum of Our Days, by Isabel Allende
  • Comfort Me With Apples, by Ruth Reichl

Books to reread soon for the book project

  • To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  • Farewell to Manzanar, by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

Books to buy soon

  • Honoring Juanita, by Hans Ostrom
  • The Atlas of Love, by Laurie Frankel

A bit of recommended online reading

I’m happy to answer questions or comment more on any of these, by request. And you? (as Shauna likes to ask) What do your summer reading lists look like?

Summer skies

"Summer Sky," Mara Morea

I’ve finished my faculty seminar on Suzan-Lori Parks, and while it was a wonderful experience, I am so happy it’s over. Summer’s here!

For the teacher, summer’s often the happy ending to the work year, a time to relax, release, and renew. These last few summers have been packed with so much: two summers of adjusting to the births of my daughters (now almost-5 and 2 years old, babies born in late June and late May, respectively); one summer of moving to our current house; one summer of preparing for a large review. Now that I think of it, this is the first summer that I’ve had in five years where I don’t have a large project planned for myself, personal or professional, which is exciting and a little scary.  Oh, right, there’s this blog.

I expect that I’ll be posting more regularly with the conclusion of the seminar. I still don’t have more MFA structure in mind just yet, but the commitment to more regular posts should help. I’m looking forward to that structure in itself, along with the exhilaration and possibility that summer always brings me. There must be something about the clarity, the openness, and the light of the summer sky.

  • Summer means summer reading, summer fruit: I can’t decide which one I like better. Knowing how much I love both, that says a lot.
  • Summer means beach picnics, bubble-blowing parties in the backyard, picking our cherry tomatoes and basil for dinner panzanella, the metallic humming and clicking of the canner heating on the stove, the vibrant colors and communities of farmer’s ventolin inhaler to buy online markets. (I live within five miles of three farmer’s markets and sometimes can’t believe my luck. Hmmm: I grew up next to a farmer’s market, the famous Denio’s Market in Roseville, California. I sense a post coming.)
  • Summer means time to browse through used bookstores and thrift stores. In both places, it’s all about the pleasure of the unexpected find, the willingness and imagination to give something old a new life. (yet another post?)
  • And this summer, I’m looking forward to learning how to sew: my mom’s just bought me my first sewing machine.
  • Summer means wonderfully long to-do lists with an equally long amount of compassion if I don’t check off every item on the list.

To reflect a bit on this first month of the blog, I have loved rethinking and reseeing the world as a writer. I’ve been excited to think about upcoming assignments for this space. (Other genre possibilities: book review, opinion piece, collage essay.) Being in the seminar for the past two and a half weeks, I’ve remembered how much I love being a student. While I need some time to relax and release, at the same time I can’t wait to carry that energy into the summer.

Summer: where the sunset clouds are Maxfield-Parrish-pink against the smoky blue sky. Where my girls are twirling in the grass and the sunshine, their skirts lifting lightly.

A small postscript: just found out that my friend R tried the adobo recipe and her kids liked it! I’m thrilled. Anyone else tried it? I’d love to know if the recipe itself needs tweaking, for those who love or need specific directions.

Not the blue jeans, again

Here’s my claim for the day: good writers make the most out of the tension between structure and freedom.

My husband, who’s a composer, always tells me that the artist’s job is to play with tension and release. I’ll work with that idea in another post, perhaps even Assignment #2, but today’s lesson is about structure and freedom.

I was going to write another post tonight about fear (Internet trolls! Amazon reviewers!), but that topic is already starting to feel worn as the clichéd blue jeans. And I do know that creative writing’s not a linear process. Writing about fear for a few posts won’t clear away my fears forever, I’m sure.

In the meantime, what was originally a fun tag line has become a liberating way to think about this blog: as a private MFA. Heck, I’ve already applied and been accepted! With full funding! I get to decide when I’ve graduated! I can do whatever I want, whenever I want!


I can do whatever I want: the writer’s blessing and curse.

The teacher in me wants to begin with a syllabus, a reading list, a schedule of assignments, a final project. It’s an MFA, right? Semester 1: finish X. Semester 2, finish Y. Repeat for 2-3 years. Degree granted. Ah, the comfort of a schedule. I like schedules, and as you saw, I like lists. The Capricorn part of me wants schedules…and features…and regularly scheduled features, and featured schedules, and scheduled regularity. But phrased that way it sounds, well, boring, doesn’t it? Why do a private MFA if it’s where to buy ventolin inhalers boring?

Thus, because it’s against my nature, and I think it’s good for me, I won’t create a full structure just yet, to see how things develop. For now, I want to post several times a week. The posts will include these musings about my new writing life, and my self-assignments, and the results of those assignments. As a partial reading list, I’d like to revisit some books about writing, including Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, and I’ve been told to pick up Stephen King’s On Writing. (Other suggestions and websites welcome.) However, if it weren’t so mid-90’s, and so ugly, and so distracting, I’d put up those pixilated flashing “Under Construction” signs all over this site. You’ll just have to imagine them whenever you click anywhere here. Or not.

And so I told you that I didn’t want to write about fear again, but I think my desire to hyperschedule may be another way of trying to control the fear, to dance the Procrastination Waltz around the fear. Hitting “publish” on this post was freeeaky, let me tell you. But it’s that kind of fear that pushed me to write creatively in the first place, to start this blog, and it’s that kind of parachute jump fear that artists take whenever they share their work. You get a rush from parachute jumps—or so I’ve been told. It’s the ultimate metaphor of structure, then freedom.

Enough procrastinating! I’ll have an assignment for you next time.