China, 1957. Chairman Mao has declared a new openness in society: “Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend.” Many intellectuals fear it is only a trick, and Kai Ying’s husband, Sheng, a teacher, has promised not to jeopardize their safety or that of their young son, Tao.
But one July morning, just before his sixth birthday, Tao watches helplessly as Sheng is dragged away for writing a letter criticizing the Communist Party and sent to a labor camp for “re-education.”
A year later, still missing his father desperately, Tao climbs to the top of the hundred-year-old kapok tree in front of their home, wanting to see the mountain peaks in the distance. But Tao slips and tumbles 30 feet to the courtyard below, badly breaking his leg.
As Kai Ying struggles to hold her small family together in the face of this shattering reminder of her husband’s absence, other members of the household must face their own guilty secrets and strive to find peace in a world where the old sense of order is falling.
Tsukiyama was born in San Francisco to a Chinese mother from Hong Kong and a Japanese American father from Hawaii. She attended San Francisco State University, where she received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English with the emphasis in creative writing. Most of her college work was focused on poetry, and she was the recipient of the Academy of American Poets Award.
A resident of the Bay Area, she has been a part-time lecturer in creative writing at SFSU as well as a freelance book reviewer for The San Francisco Chronicle. She served as a judge for the Kiriyama Book Prize and is currently book review editor for the online magazine The WaterBridge Review.
In September 2001, she was one of 50 authors chosen by the Library of Congress to participate in the first National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. She has been a guest speaker at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival and the Sydney Writers’ Festival.
Her other novels are “Women of the Silk” (1993), “The Samurai’s Garden” (1996), “Night of Many Dreams” (1999), “The Language of Threads” (2000), “Dreaming Water” (2003), and “The Street of a Thousand Blossoms” (2008).