By Rebecca Copeland
The Kimono Tattoo
“Silk unravels; a tattoo is forever. Layer by layer the truth is revealed.”
“I jostled her shoulder and noticed when I did that her skin was cold to the touch….her entire torso was covered in tattoos from her collar bone to the midline of her thighs. All were of kimono motifs—fans, incense burners, peonies, and scrolls.” This ghastly scene was the last thing Ruth Bennett expected to encounter when she agreed to translate a novel by a long-forgotten Japanese writer. Returning to her childhood home in Kyoto had promised safety, solitude, and diversion from the wounds she encountered in the U.S. But Ruth soon finds the story line in the novel leaking into her everyday life. Fictional characters turn out to be real, and the past catches up with the present in an increasingly threatening way.
The Kimono Tattoo takes readers on a journey into Kyoto’s intricate world of kimono design. As Ruth struggles to unravel the cryptic message hidden in the kimono tattoo, she is forced to confront a vicious killer along with her own painful family secrets.
About the Author
Rebecca Copeland is a writer of fiction and literary criticism and a translator of Japanese literature. Her stories travel between Japan and the American South and touch on questions of identity, belonging, and self-discovery. The Kimono Tattoo, her debut work, takes readers on a journey into Kyoto’s intricate world of kimono design, and into a mystery that interweaves family dynamics, loss, and reconciliation.
Credit: Sean Garcia of Washington University in St. Louis
My work travels between Japan and the Blue Ridge Mountains, tracing the lines of memory, identity, and self-discovery.
My scholarly works are informed by questions of gender and genre and focus almost exclusively on modern Japanese women writers.
We all translate. It is part of everyday communication. For me, part of that communication is translating from Japanese to English.
“Rebecca Copeland has done more to advance the study of Japanese women writers in English than any other scholar working today. Her translations, scholarship, and lectures have defined the field.”
— Jan Bardsley, Professor Emerita
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
My Writing Blog
I was not the first pick to translate Kirino Natsuo’s Grotesque. Kirino’s agent went the rounds of other translators before being directed to me. And once she found me, she did not give me a contract on the spot. I had to “try out” for the job. She sent me several...
I like translating. I enjoy the experience of entering a text, digging beneath the surface of the language in search of patterns and meanings and movement. I am exhilarated by the challenge of making these discoveries come alive in a second language. When it all comes...
Sometimes you choose a project. Other times it chooses you. My first major translation project was Kirino Natsuo’s Grotesque. I came about the translation in a circuitous fashion. A Japanese Studies scholar in Canada wrote to tell me about an agent in the US who was...
“Famous for her academic studies of the female deity Izanami, the mountain yamamba, Meiji women writers, and more, Copeland’s award-winning translations of Japanese literature are also evidence of agility with the craft of fiction writing. No other scholar of Japan is better suited to turning her hand to a mystery novel set in Kyoto.”