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.
Praise for The Kimono Tattoo
“A delicate and intricate novel, pieced together like a mosaic, that just blew me away. The author shows a strikingly deep knowledge of Japanese literature and kimono culture.” —Natsuo Kirino, Edgar-award nominated author of OUT, Grotesque, and other novels
“It is not simply an exciting page-turner you cannot put down, but also an intricate thriller uniquely informed with the “kimono and tattoo philosophy,” and immensely enriched by the protagonist’s double perspective as both an insider and outsider—an American scholar living and working in Japan. The novel brings you so vividly into the kaleidoscope of the modern-day Japan, you want to make a trip there the next day, holding a copy of The Kimono Tattoo.” —Xiaolong Qiu, author of the award-winning Inspector Chen Series
“Debut novelist, Rebecca Copeland offers a smart, entertaining read in The Kimono Tattoo. Readers who relish mystery, suspense, literary fiction, and romance will find it all in this multi-genre gem!” —Johnnie Bernhard, author of Sisters of the Undertow
“The Kimono Tattoo is an intelligent escape—into the past, into the mind, into a fascinating culture. Finely crafted and perfectly paced, this literary thriller remains engrossing long after the last sentence, opening a world that lingers in the imagination.” —Jeannette Cooperman, St. Louis Media Hall of Fame journalist, essayist, and author of A Circumstance of Blood
“In a tale as intricately patterned as a Jacquard-weave obi, Rebecca Copeland’s American heroine finds herself entangled in the delicate threads of Kyoto’s kimono industry as well as the darker skeins of yakuza, tattoo parlors, and rebellious youth. The reader is quickly drawn in to the dangerous twists and turns while Copeland’s detailed knowledge of Kyoto comes through on every page—a treat for all who love this city, and a great read.” —Liza Dalby, anthropologist, artist, and author of the best seller, Geisha; Kimono: Fashioning Culture; and the novels The Tale of Murasaki and Hidden Buddhas: A Novel of Karma and Chaos
“An intriguing mystery wrapped inside the beautifully rendered world of Kyoto. Rebecca Copeland’s intimate knowledge of Japanese culture and custom shine throughout this novel.” —Susan Perabo, author of The Broken Places and The Fall of Lisa Bellow
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
The other day I heard my father’s voice. My father died in 2011. Hearing his voice again was an unexpected treat. Now, before you start envisioning séances and magical meetings, let me explain. I was searching for my father’s birthplace online. Crazy, I know. But...
“Come here,” my father said as he stepped off the path. “I have something to show you.” We ducked under branches and tore through brambles. He was always careful to hold the twigs and branches so that they wouldn’t swish back and slap me in the face. We crept down the...
The trees were brilliant just a few days ago, their branches a shimmer of scarlet and amber. As I set out for my morning run, I notice they have grown more subdued. The scarlet has faded to russet. I hold out my hand and catch an ocher leaf as it plummets...
“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.”