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.

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, there 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.

Her most recent book, “American Harvest,” is set in seven agricultural and heartland states, and was published in hardcover by Graywolf Press on April 7, 2020; “American Harvest” was a finalist for the Lukas Prize for Nonfiction, the Heartland Booksellers Association prize for nonfiction and Society of Midland Authors prize for nonfiction. (Formerly titled “A Kernel in God’s Eye.”) She is at work on a series of essays for Graywolf Press about California, tentatively titled “How to Be a Californian.” She is also at work on two other novels. Her recent essays continue 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.

Marie received her MFA from the Bennington Writers Seminars and teaches fiction and nonfiction at the Bennington Writing Seminars, in Bennington, Vermont. For the 2019-2020 academic year, she is a Visiting Writer in the MFA program Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California and lives in San Francisco.

Photo by Mark Mockett