A memoir of crossing cultures, losing love and finding home
by a New York Times Notable Author in her prime.
As steadily and quietly as her marriage falls apart, so Kyoko Mori’s understanding of knitting deepens. From the flawed school mittens made in her native Japan, where needlework is used as a way to prepare women for marriage and silence, to the beautiful unmatched patterns of cardigans, hats and shawls made in the American Midwest, Kyoko draws the connection between knitting and the new life she tried to establish in the U.S. From the suicide of her mother to the last empty days of her marriage, Kyoko finds a way to begin again on her own terms. Interspersed with fact and history about knitting throughout, the narrative touchingly contemplates the nature of love, loss and what holds a marriage together. In the tradition of M F K Fisher’s The Gastronomical Me, Joan Didion’s Where I Was From and Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire, Mori examines a specific subject to understand human nature - when to unravel, when to begin again, when to drop the stitch, and when to declare…it’s finished.
’s award-winning first novel, Shizuko's Daughter
, was hailed by the New York Times
as “a jewel of a book, one of those rarities that shine out only a few times in a generation.” Her many critically acclaimed books include Polite Lies
, The Dream of Water
, and the novels, Stone Field
, True Arrow
and One Bird
(all Henry Holt.) Her essays and short stories have appeared in journals such as The American Scholar
, Harvard Review
, and The Kenyon Review
. Mori holds a Ph.D. in English/Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She was Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in Creative Writing, Harvard (1999-2005) and, for the last 5 years, an associate of the Lesley University MFA program in Cambridge. Kyoko Mori is professor of English at George Mason University.
Early Praise for Yarn
"'Knitting only appears to be a docile activity," writes Kyoko Mori in Yarn. While it is knitting that literally and metaphorically weaves together the disparate elements of Mori's life―her travels, her marriage and separation, her coming to knowledge of herself through tragedy and joy―it is the sheer beauty of her writing, at once elegantly restrained and emotionally unflinching, that so highly recommends this stunning memoir. Kyoko Mori is one of the world's most inimitable writers."
– Howard Norman, author of The Bird Artist and What is Left the Daughter
"Mori’s books are like red dragonflies at sunset. Afterwards, I’m not sure if I really experienced them or if it was a dream. Writing as a woman caught between cultures, Mori is a marvelous hybrid of Western realism and Eastern sublimity. Whether she is remembering her young mother’s suicide, a visit with an estranged father, or the return to solitude after marriage, Mori writes with deftness and penetration....Even when Mori writes about seemingly banal activities, like a jog along the sea or knitting a sweater, she is trenchant and memorable."
– Henri Cole, winner of the Kingsley Tufts, the Rome Prize in Literature, and the Lenore Marshal
Poetry Prize, author of Middle Earth and Blackbird and Wolf, among other collections
"Mori writes about loss so quietly and wisely...She recasts her mother’s suicide and her father’s coldness—two terrible childhood absences—into possibilities for herself rather than limitations...But this beautiful book isn’t about acceptance so much as it’s about resourcefulness and creativity. There’s no advice here, only the moving example of Mori herself, knitting together her past and present into something coherent and useful, like a shawl, or a cardigan, or a pair of mittens, a way to keep warm in a world that can often be cold, a way to stay focused and engaged in a world that sometimes makes no sense at all."
– Suzanne Berne, The Ghost at the Table, A Perfect Arrangement, A Crime in the Neighbourhood
(Orange Prize for Fiction), and the forthcoming memoir Lucile: My Grandmother in History, and Vice Versa
"Save reading Kyoko Mori’s Yarn for a day when your imagination needs a journey into enchantment. A dreamy weave of memoir and story that is also a droll cross-cultural history of knitting, spinning and weaving, this enthralling, utterly original book is a small masterpiece. I couldn’t put it down."
– Honor Moore, The Bishop’s Daughter
“Sit with Kyoko Mori as she artfully takes in hand needles and fiber, and also the realities of her life story, to knit this gorgeous memoir of loss, emigration, grief, identity and the work of her hands....Scenes and tales become stitches forming a shawl of stories that have draped the author’s life, and that will rest so memorably on the shoulders of readers fortunate enough to encounter this book.”
– Suzanne Strempek Shea, Sundays in America: A Year-Long Roadtrip in Search of Christian Faith
“In Yarn, Kyoko Mori employs the metaphor of knitting to devastating effect: strands are wound together seamlessly into a single garment, which is used to keep the wearer/reader/author warm."
– David Shields, The Thing About Life is that One Day You’ll Be Dead