Marie Mutsuki Mockett was born in Carmel, California to a Japanese mother and American father, who saw to it that she learned her mother's native tongue. She graduated from Columbia University with a degree in East Asian Studies. Her work often focuses on the intersection between spirituality and materialism in Japan and the United States, two countries that have experienced unprecedented wealth.
Marie's second book, Where the Dead Pause and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey, will be published Norton in January of 2015 and is an intimate voyage into Japanese culture and spirituality, culminating in one of Japan's most sacred places.
Marie Mutsuki Mockett's family owns a Buddhist temple 25 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In March 2011, after the earthquake and tsunami, radiation levels prohibited the burial of her Japanese grandfather's bones. At the same time, Mockett grieved for her American father, who had died unexpectedly. As Japan mourned thousands of people lost in the disaster, she wondered: how does one cope with overwhelming grief?
Seeking consolation, Mockett is guided by a colorful cast of Zen priests and ordinary Japanese who perform rituals that disturb, haunt, and finally uplift her. From the ecstasy of a cherry blossom festival in the radiation zone to the ghosts inhabiting chopsticks, Mockett writes of both the earthly and the sublime with extraordinary sensitivity. Her unpretentious and engaging voice makes her the kind of companion a reader wants to stay with wherever she goes, even into the heart of grief itself.
Marie's debut novel, Picking Bones from Ash, was published by Graywolf Press and was shortlisted for the 2010 Saroyan Prize, the Asian American Literary Awards for Fiction and was a Finalist for the Paterson Prize.
Marie's non-fiction writing has been published in The New York Times, Glamour, Salon, National Geographic, The Millions, The Nervous Breakdown, The New Yorker online, and Agni, and she has been interviewed on NPR's Talk of the Nation and All Things Considered. Marie's fiction, essays, and poetry have been published in Agni, Epoch, South Dakota Review, New Delta Review, North Dakota Quarterly, The Portland Review, LIT, The Texas Review, Phoebe, and other journals.
Marie's essay "Letter from a Japanese Crematorium" was published in Agni 65 and cited as distinguished in the 2008 Best American Essays, edited by Adam Gopnik, and published in the Creative Nonfiction 3, edited by Lee Gutkind. Of the essay, Publishers Weekly wrote: "Among the standouts is . . . an emotional "Letter from a Japanese Crematorium" by Marie Mutsuki Mockett."
In 2013, Marie was a Fellow with the Japan US Friendship Commission and the NEA, and spent four months in Japan, meeting with spiritual workers tending to the souls of tsunami survivors. Her experience was filmed and broadcast internationally by NHK (Japan's answer to the BBC). You can see stills of the documentary here: http://www.nhk.or.jp/japan311/tmrw2-vene.html.