Her words still carry traces of her Japanese accent, but her inflection and dialect are distinctly Midwestern. It would be easier to write a historical novel about, like, five centuries ago than a historical novel about an event you kind of missed just by a few years. And then I was going to write nonfiction about it, but for the same reason, I couldn’t. ” Mori had to reevaluate her purpose: if not these stories she’d had in mind, then what?
“I kind of wasted my sabbatical writing things that were never quite right, but I think I had to write all of that to get to the right place.” It took her some time to recognize that the “right place,” the real story, the big story—the story about going back to Japan and realizing that in no way could it ever be her home—had been there from the moment she boarded the airplane.
In 1990, during a sabbatical, Mori took her first trip back to Japan since her departure 13 years earlier.
She toured the country, including her hometown, and spent time with relatives, many of those on her mother’s side whom her father had forbidden her to see so many years before—aunts, uncles, cousins, and her 94-year-old grandmother.
“What I was going to write now was going to be almost like a prequel to , about the older people in the family.” Mori’s mother’s family was deeply affected by the events at the end of World War II.
They lost their land, their livelihood, their entire city destroyed by firebombs.
She moved to the United States four years later to attend college, receiving her bachelor's degree from Rockford College and a master's and Ph. In Mori's well-received memoir The Dream of Water (1995), she travels back to Kobe to make peace with her mother's suicide and to visit the family she left behind.
That same year she published her second young adult novel, One Bird (1995).
A Japanese-American poet, novelist, and nonfiction writer, Mori was raised in Kobe, Japan, and, inspired by her mother and grandfather, began to write in both Japanese and English at an early age.
“These two people in my family gave me the idea that writing was something we did everyday or even every week with enjoyment.” At age 12, Mori was devastated when her mother committed suicide. Her first novel for young adults, Shizuko's Daughter (1993), was followed by a collection of poetry, Fallout (1994).