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Secrets of the Sun

Mako Yoshikawa

February 20, 2024

Mako Yoshikawa's Secrets of the Sun: A Memoir (Mad Creek Books 2024) contains a host of essays about her difficult, brilliant father. Shoichi Yoshikawa grew up in a wealthy family in 1930s Japan, but his mother died when he was five, and he died alone on the eve of Mako’s wedding. He had been a genius, renowned for his research in nuclear fusion and respected at Princeton, until he fell apart. She remembered him being alternatingly kind or violent when bipolar disease gripped him. Her mother packed up and left the house with Mako and her sisters, later remarrying a wonderful man and brilliant chess player who Mako considered the father she always wanted. Mako wants to understand him; why he cross-dressed, why he was so passionate about fusion, why he alienated his daughters so that he hadn’t even been invited to Mako’s wedding.

Mako Yoshikawa is the author of the novels One Hundred and One Ways and Once Removed. Her novels have been translated into six languages; awards include a Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant and a Radcliffe Fellowship. As a literary critic, she has published articles that explore the relationship between incest and race in 20th-century American fiction. After her father’s death in 2010, Mako began writing about him and their relationship: essays which have appeared in the Missouri Review, Southern Indiana Review, Harvard Review, Story, Lit Hub, Longreads, and Best American Essays. These essays became the basis for her new memoir, Secrets of the Sun. Yoshikawa grew up in Princeton, New Jersey but spent two years of her childhood in Tokyo, Japan. She received a B.A. in English literature from Columbia University, a Masters in Shakespeare and Renaissance Drama at Lincoln College, Oxford, and a Ph. D. in English literature from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Mako is a professor of creative writing and the director of the MFA program at Emerson College. In addition to her MFA classes, Mako teaches Comedic Lit to undergraduates in Emerson’s Comedic Arts program. She also teaches as often as she can in the Emerson Prison Initiative, a degree-granting program that is based in MCI-Norfolk, a medium-security prison for men. She lives with her husband and two unruly cats in Boston and Baltimore.

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