Suzanne Kamata to Michigander Monday!
Debbie: Suzanne, please tell us a little about yourself.
Suzanne: I was born and raised in Grand Haven, Michigan, and I attended Kalamazoo College for a year. I came to Japan after college to teach English "for one year" and wound up meeting a guy. I now live in the prefecture of Tokushima, which has a Sister City relationship with Saginaw, Michigan, with my Japanese husband and our teen-aged twins.
I have wanted to be a writer since childhood. As a kid I wrote stories for my classmates, and you might say that my career was launched at a conference for young writers at Hope College back in the day. My participation in that landed me in the Grand Haven Tribune! I got my first check for a piece of writing for an article I wrote while in high school about young people going into the military for the Grand Rapids Press.
Debbie: And, of course, we want to know all about your books.
Suzanne: Most of my books, so far, have something to do with Japan or being an expatriate or motherhood. My first novel, Losing Kei (Leapfrog Press, 2008) and my short story collection, The Beautiful One Has Come (Wyatt-Mackenzie Publishing, 2011), were about all three! My most recent book is a young adult novel, Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible (GemmaMedia, May 2013), and takes place partly in Michigan. It's about Aiko Cassidy, a biracial girl with cerebral palsy who aspires to be a manga artist, and also about her complicated relationship with her white, single mother who has become a successful sculptor using her daughter as a model. They go to Paris when Laina, the mother, wins a prize for her art, and Aiko begins to find her place in the world.
Debbie: Other books or projects on the horizon?
Suzanne: Many! A young adult novel for older readers, Screaming Divas, about an all-grrl rock band in 1980s South Carolina, with a nod to Motown, will be published late next year by Jacquelyn Mitchard's Merit Press. I'm also working on a book about traveling around the world with my daughter, who is a wheelchair user. I was recently awarded a grant by the Sustainable Arts Foundation for this project. I'm tinkering with a Japanese baseball novel for young readers, and I've just started a sequel to Gadget Girl, which will be set in Japan. I was thrilled to receive a Multicultural Work-in-Progress Award for that. So yes, I will be busy!
Debbie: Upcoming appearances?
Suzanne: Not yet, but hopefully within the next year. I would love to visit schools to talk about Gadget Girl in Western Michigan in, say, March. Teachers! Email me!
Debbie: Do you have a favorite Michigan library?
Suzanne: I spent many happy hours in Grand Haven Public Library (now Loutit Library).
Debbie: How about a favorite place in Michigan?
Suzanne: Grand Haven. When I was growing up there, I was eager to get out and go to the Big City and become a famous writer. My ninth grade Geometry teacher told us students that someday we would appreciate the city we lived in, and we'd want to live there. Now I can see how lucky I was!
I think Sleeping Bear Dunes is pretty special, too.
Debbie: Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?
Suzanne: The Coast Guard Festival and the Musical Fountain in Grand Haven. The Tulip Festival in Holland.
Debbie: A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?
Suzanne: Well, pretty soon I think you'll be hearing about Helene Dunbar, who was my freshman year roommate at Kalamazoo College. She has written a beautiful, intense book called These Gentle Wounds which will be published by Flux next year. Here's a link to her blog: http://www.helenedunbar.com/blog/.
Debbie: Last question. Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally, what’s the better term: Michigander or Michiganian?
Suzanne: I call myself a Michigander.
Debbie: We'll add you to the Michigander column! Thank you, Suzanne, for being here today for Michigander Monday!