Marie was born and raised in California to a Japanese mother and American father, and graduated from Columbia University with a degree in East Asian Languages and Civilizations, where she wrote about female shamans in Japan. She received her MFA from the Bennington Writers Seminars.
Her most recent book, “American Harvest: God, Country and Farming in the American Heartland,” is set in seven agricultural and heartland states, and was published in hardcover by Graywolf Press on April 7, 2020. “American Harvest” won the 2021 Northern California Book Award for General Nonfiction and the Nebraska Book Award for Nonfiction. A novel, “The Tree Doctor,” is forthcoming from Graywolf Press, along with a series of essays titled “How to Be a Californian.” Her recent work continues to focus on the intersections of race, place, faith and the natural world, with a special interest in city versus country, “modern” versus old, and East and West.
Her memoir, “Where the Dead Pause and the Japanese Say Goodbye,” explores how the Japanese cope with grief and tragedy and is set against the backdrop of the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Tōhoku, Japan and her family’s 350 year old Buddhist temple. The memoir was a New York Times Editors Choice, a Barnes and Noble Discover Pick, an Indie Next Pick, a Finalist for the 2016 Pen Open Book Award, a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2015 and a Finalist for the Indies Choice Best Book for Adult Nonfiction for 2016.
Her first novel, “Picking Bones from Ash,” was shortlisted for the Saroyan International Prize for Writing, and a finalist for the Paterson Prize. Her essay, Letter from a Japanese Crematorium, was anthologized in Norton’s Best Creative Nonfiction 3. She has written for The New York Times, Salon, National Geographic, Glamour, and other publications and has been a guest on The World, Talk of the Nation and All Things Considered on NPR. She enjoys speaking to the public about Japan, modern attitudes toward religion and spirituality and seeing through unconscious bias.
In 2013, Marie was awarded a Fellowship by the NEA and Japan US Friendship Commission, which enabled her to live in Japan. While there, she was featured in the NHK (Japanese National Broadcasting) Documentary, Venerating the Departed, which was broadcast internationally several times. Marie has also been award scholarships by the Bread Loaf Writers Conference and been a Fellow at UCross and the Dora Maar House.
With Kiese Laymon, Marie is a series editor for Great Circle Books, a newly launched imprint from UNC Press, which “seeks, through innovative work, to merge the human experience with our relationship to place. Its books are intended for general readers, as well as students and teachers of writing, particularly those interested in urgent and previously unvoiced cultural conversations that offer new ways to see and understand a world in a constant state of flux.” Marie has taught fiction and nonfiction at the Saint Mary’s MFA program in Moraga, California and at the Rainier Writing Workshop in Tacoma, Washington. She regularly guest teaches at writing conferences and is part of the core faculty at the Bennington Writing Seminars, in Bennington, Vermont. She is a 2022-2023 Fulbright Fellow to Japan.
Photo by Sylvie Rosokoff