Gail Tsukiyama was born in San Francisco, California to a Chinese mother from Hong Kong and a Japanese father from Hawaii. She attended San Francisco State University where she received both her Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Master of Arts Degree in English with the emphasis in Creative Writing.  Most of her college work was focused on poetry, and she was the recipient of the Academy of American Poets Award.  A resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, she has been apart-time lecturer in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University, as well as a freelance book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle.

During 1997 to 1999, she sat as a judge for the Kiriyama Book Prize and is currently Book Review Editor for the online magazine The WaterBridge Review. In September of 2001, she was one of fifty authors chosen by the Library of Congress to participate in the first National Book Festival in Washington D.C. and has been guest speaker at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival and the Sydney Writers' Festival.

A Hundred Flowers

A Novel

St. Martin's Press

A powerful new novel about an ordinary family facing extraordinary times at the start of the Chinese Cultural Revolution

China, 1957. Chairman Mao has declared a new openness in society: "Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend." Many intellectuals fear it is only a trick, and Kai Y ing's husband, Sheng, a teacher, has promised not to jeopardize their safety or that of their young son, T ao. But one July morning, just before his sixth birthday, Tao watches helplessly as Sheng is dragged away for writing a letter criticizing the Communist Party and sent to a labor camp for "reeducation."

A year later, still missing his father desperately, Tao climbs to the top of the hundred-year-old kapok tree in front of their home, wanting to see the mountain peaks in the distance. But Tao slips and tumbles thirty feet to the courtyard below, badly breaking his leg.

As Kai Ying struggles to hold her small family together in the face of this shattering reminder of her husband's absence, other members of the household must face their own guilty secrets and strive to find peace in a world where the old sense of order is falling. Once again, Tsukiyama brings us a powerfully moving story of ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances with grace and courage.


The Street of a Thousand Blossoms

St. Martin's Griffin, 2008

"Just remember," Yoshio said quietly to his grandsons. "Every day of your lives, you must always be sure what you're fighting for."

It is Tokyo in 1939. On the Street of a Thousand Blossoms, two orphaned brothers are growing up with their loving grandparents, who inspire them to dream of a future firmly rooted in tradition. The older boy, Hiroshi, shows unusual skill at the national obsession of sumo wrestling, while Kenji is fascinated by the art of creating hard-carved masks for actors in the Noh theater.

Across town, a renowned sumo master, Sho Tanaka, lives with his wife and their two young daughters: the delicate, daydreaming Aki and her independent sister, Haru. Life seems full of promise as Kenji begins an informal apprenticeship with the most famous mask-maker in Japan and Hiroshi receives a coveted invitation to train with Tanaka. But then Pearl Harbor changes everything. As the ripples of war spread to both families' quiet neighborhoods, all of the generations must put their dreams on hold---and then find their way in a new Japan.

In an exquisitely moving story that spans almost thirty years, Gail Tsukiyama draws us irresistibly into the world of the brothers and the women who love them. It is a world of tradition and change, of heartbreaking loss and surprising hope, and of the impact of events beyond their control on ordinary, decent men and women. Above all, The Street of a Thousand Blossoms is a masterpiece about love and family from a glorious storyteller at the height of her powers.


Dreaming Water

St. Martin's Griffin, 2003

Bestselling author Gail Tsukiyama is known for her poignant, subtle insights into the most complicated of relationships. DREAMING WATER is an exploration of two of the richest and most layered human connections that exist: mother and daughter and lifelong friends.

Hana is suffering from Werner's syndrome, a disease that makes a person age at twice the rate of a healthy individual: at thirty-eight Hana has the appearance of an eighty-year-old. Cate, her mother, is caring for her while struggling with her grief at losing her husband, Max, and with the knowledge that Hana's disease is getting worse by the day.

Hana and Cate's days are quiet and ordered. Cate escapes to her beloved garden and Hana reads and writes letters. Each find themselves drawn into their pasts, remembering the joyous and challenging events that have shaped them: spending the day at Max's favorite beach, overcoming their neighbors' prejudices that Max is Japanese-American and Cate is Italian-American, and coping with the heartbreak of discovering Hana's disease.

One of the great joys of Hana's life has been her relationship with her beautiful, successful best friend Laura. Laura has moved to New York from their hometown in California and has two daughters, Josephine and Camille. She has not been home in years and begs Hana to let her bring her daughters to meet her, feeling that Josephine, in particular, needs to have Hana in her life. Despite Hana's latest refusal, Laura decides to come anyway. When Laura's loud, energetic, and troubled world collides with Hana and Cate's daily routine, the story really begins.

Dreaming Water is about a mother's courage, a daughter's strength, and a friend's love. It is about the importance of human dignity and the importance of all the small moments that create a life worth living.


The Language of Threads

St. Martin's Griffin, 2000

In her acclaimed debut novel, Women of the Silk, Gail Tsukiyama told the moving story of Pei, brought to work in the silk house as a girl, grown into a quiet but determined young woman whose life was subject to cruel twists of fate, including the loss of her closest friend, Lin. Now we finally learn what happened to Pei, as she leaves the silk house for Hong Kong in the 1930's, arriving with a young orphan, Ji Shen, in her care. Her first job, in the home of a wealthy family, ends in disgrace, but soon Pei and Ji Shen find a new life in the home of Mrs. Finch, a British ex-patriate who welcomes them as the daughters she never had. Their new family is torn apart, however, by war, and the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong. As Mrs. Finch is forced into a prison camp, and Ji Shen tries to navigate the perilous waters of the gang-run black market, Pei is once again forced to make her own way, struggling to survive and to keep her extended family alive as well.

In this dramatic story of hardship and survival in the face of historic upheaval, Gail Tsukiyama brings her trademark grace and storytelling flair to paint a moving, unforgettable portrait of women fighting the forces of war and time to make a life for themselves.


Night of Many Dreams

St. Martin's Griffin, 1999

Gail Tsukiyama's most recent novel tells the powerful story of two sisters coming of age in Hong Kong, beginning just before the Second World War.

When war threatens the comfortable life of Joan and Emma Lew, the daughters of a Hong Kong businessman, they escape with their family to spend the early 1940s in Macao. When they return home, Joan, the beautiful elder sister, hopes for a traditional marriage and children, until her passion for movies and romance gives her the promise of different life. Emma, inspired by the independence of her aunt Go, considers college in San Francisco and the challenge of life in America.

As the girls become women, each follows a different path from what her family expects. But through times of great happiness and sorrow, the sisters learn that their complicated ties to each other--and to the other members of their close-knit family--are a source of strength as they pursue their separate dreams.


The Samurai's Garden

St. Martin's Griffin, 1996

On the eve of the Second World War, a young Chinese man is sent to his family's summer home in Japan to recover from tuberculosis. He will rest, swim in the salubrious sea, and paint in the brilliant shoreside light. It will be quiet and solitary. But he meets four local residents - a lovely young Japanese girl and three older people. What then ensues is a tale that readers will find at once classical yet utterly unique. Young Stephen has his own adventure, but it is the unfolding story of Matsu, Sachi, and Kenzo that seizes your attention and will stay with you forever. Tsukiyama, with lines as clean, simple, telling, and dazzling as the best of Oriental art, has created an exquisite little masterpiece.


Women of the Silk

St. Martin's Griffin, 1993

A first novel exceptional for its exquisite writing and for its rich portrait of a woman's life in a China now lost. Her story is rendered with exceptional grace, with the clear, shining dignity of legend or song; Tsukiyama lends her voice to figures of women emboldened by their dream of growth and personal power.

In Women of the Silk Gail Tsukiyama takes her readers back to rural China in 1926, where a group of women forge a sisterhood amidst the reeling machines that reverberate and clamor in a vast silk factory from dawn to dusk. Leading the first strike the village has ever seen, the young women use the strength of their ambition, dreams, and friendship to achieve the freedom they could never have hoped for on their own. Tsukiyama's graceful prose weaves the details of "the silk work" and Chinese village life into a story of courage and strength.

The Night of a Thousand Blossoms

"Tsukiyama has long been known for her emotional and detailed stories. This time, she has gone even deeper to explore what happens to ordinary people during frightening and tragic times."
-- Lisa See, author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love

"Gail Tsukiyama is a writer of astonishing grace, delicacy, and feeling. Her lyric precision serves not only to leave the reader breathless but to illuminate human suffering and redemption with clarity and power."
-- Michael Chabon, author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

"Covering the years of the war and after, on the home front of Japan, Tsukiyama tells a powerful story of family, of loss, and of endurance with her usual insight, her perfect imagery, and her unforgettable characters. . . . I loved every word."
-- Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club

"Gail Tsukiyama takes us into the world of sumo, allowing us to experience what exists beyond the rituals and the wrestling: the fascinating culture of contact and the intimacies of family love and devotion. This is an impressive achievement."
-- Elizabeth George, author of What Came Before He Shot Her and Write Away: One Novelist's Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life

"A master storyteller . . . Gail Tsukiyama expertly and beautifully weaves together the lives of a sumo wrestler and his family, and a Noh mask-maker through World War II and into the 1960s."
-- Jane Hamilton, author of The Book of Ruth and A Map of the World

From Publishers Weekly
In her ambitious sixth novel (Dreaming Water; The Samurai's Garden), Tsukiyama tackles life in Japan before, during and after WWII. The story follows brothers Hiroshi and Kenji Matsumoto through the devastation of war and the hardships of postwar reconstruction. Orphaned when their parents were killed in a boating accident, the boys are raised by their grandparents in Tokyo. In 1939, Hiroshi is 11 and dreams of becoming a sumo champion, and soon Kenji will discover his own passion, to become a master maker of Noh masks. Their grandparents, Yoshio and Fumiko Wada, are vividly rendered; the war years and early postwar years, centered in their home on the street of the novel's title, are powerfully portrayed... The lingering effects of war...are clear, and these, combined with a nation's search for pride and hope after surrender comprise the novel's oversized heart. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

 

Dreaming Water

"Gail Tuskiyama is a writer of astonishing grace, delicacy, and feeling.  Her lyric precision serves not only to leave the reader breathless, but to illuminate human suffering and redemption with clarity and power."
-- Michael Chabon, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

"Tsukiyama creates a bond between Cate and Hana that mothers and daughters will know as almost a physical need, so deeply entwined are they in each other's lives.  They anticipate each other's pain; one will unexpectedly laugh or suddenly cry, and the other one responds in kind.  The reader, too, laughs and aches under the spell of such graceful writing."
-- USA Today

"Although Dreaming Water takes place over the span of just two days, in clear, poetic prose Tsukiyama creates a family and their life that necessarily must be lived in their own mysterious and poignant orbit."
-- Jane Hamilton, author of A Map of the World and Disobedience: A Novel

"Beautifully written, effused with both sadness and hope, Tsukiyama's novel cannot fail to move readers."
-- Booklist (starred review)

"...Tsukiyama blossoms with an intimate portrait of a mother and her dying daughter."
-- Kirkus Reviews

"Tsukiyama writes beautifully about courage and love, showing us the importance of daily kindnesses and highlighting the beauty found in the relationships among mothers, daughters, and friends."
-- Library Journal

From Publisher's Weekly
"Tsukiyama (The Language of Threads) has a style at once evocative and formal, well suited to historical romances; now she takes on contemporary drama. At 38, Hana Murayama is dying of Werner's syndrome, a genetic defect that causes premature aging. Hana is almost totally dependent on her mother, Cate, who at 62 is still recovering from the sudden death of her husband, Max. As a child during WWII, Max had been interned with other Japanese-Americans in a camp in Wyoming and subsequently went on to teach history at a small northern California college. That background, her mother's love of gardening and her own usually feisty outlook are what Hana brings to her effort to live and die with dignity. Over the course of two days, Hana and Cate retrace in memory their lives and Max's. Their scattered and sometimes conflicting expectations are brought into sharp focus when Hana's best friend, Laura, now a successful East Coast lawyer, arrives with her two daughters, Hana's godchildren, allowing Hana and Cate to find a measure of the reconciliation that has eluded them. Tsukiyama has a wonderful ability to elicit delicate atmospherics; in particular, she uses the sense of touch to stunning effect. But the pacing is stilted, and neither Cate nor Hana allows herself a moment of private rage, although, in her thoughts, Cate strays briefly from the stoic. Her implicit frustration adds a note of vulnerability to the moving, subtle narrative."
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

 

Night of Many Dreams

The San Francisco Chronicle, Patricia Abe
...a quietly powerful and understated story...

From Booklist, February 15, 1998
In a story where the omniscient narrator moves the point of view among the family participants, and where time may shift years between chapters or linger over moments slow and sweet as honey, we view the world of Emma Lew of Hong Kong and, later, San Francisco; her older sister Joan; and their family from 1940 to 1965. The changing mores of Hong Kong society are the backdrop for the tender relationships among Emma, who longs for a wider world than her mother's ladies' lunches; Joan, who finds her place in the movies that have fed her dreams since childhood; Auntie Go, who pulls deeply against tradition by running her own business; and silent servant Foon, whose cooking forges a near-mystical familial bond. Particularly fine at evoking how scent and aroma can jog the memory and clutch at the heart, the tale grows in richness as it proceeds, a paean to the sustaining pleasures of family.
Copyright© 1998, American Library Association. All rights reserved

 

The Samurai's Garden

From Booklist, March 1, 1995
Praised for her lovely first novel, Women of the Silk (1991), Tsukiyama has extended herself even further and written an extraordinarily graceful and moving novel about goodness and beauty. The daughter of a Chinese mother and a Japanese father, Tsukiyama uses the Japanese invasion of China during the late 1930s as a somber backdrop for her unusual story about a 20-year-old Chinese painter named Stephen who is sent to his family's summer home in a Japanese coastal village to recover from a bout with tuberculosis. Here he is cared for by Matsu, a reticent housekeeper and a master gardener. Over the course of a remarkable year, Stephen learns Matsu's secret and gains not only physical strength, but also profound spiritual insight. Matsu is a samurai of the soul, a man devoted to doing good and finding beauty in a cruel and arbitrary world, and Stephen is a noble student, learning to appreciate Matsu's generous and nurturing way of life and to love Matsu's soul mate, gentle Sachi, a woman afflicted with leprosy. Tsukiyama is a wise and spellbinding storyteller. Donna Seaman. Copyright © 1995, American Library Association. All rights reserved.

 

Women of the Silk

"Enlivened with an engrossing richness of detail, Women of the Silk provides a revealing look at the life and customs of China . . . succinct and delicate."
—The New York Times Book Review

"Evocative . . . warm-hearted."—Washington Post Book World

"A soft ring of feminism . . . languorous, almost dreamlike quality."—Booklist

"One of the lovliest first novels published this year."—San Francisco Chronicle

"A first novel exceptional for its exquisite writing and for its rich portrait of a woman's life in a China now lost. Her story is rendered with exceptional grace, with the clear, shining dignity of legend or song; Tsukiyama lends her voice to figures of women emboldened by their dream of growth and personal power."—Ingram

Get Lit - Gail Tsukiyama

Host Peter Crooks interviews author of 1,000 Blossoms, Gail Tsukiyama.


Gail Tsukiyama SFPL Main Stage

Author Gail Tsukiyama answers audience questions on her book The Samurai's Garden at the San Francisco Main Library. Gail tells of her many inspirations for her books and discusses her creative process with the audience.