About Rebecca Copeland

Writer, Translator, Author 

My Story

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.

Her academic writings have focused almost exclusively on modern Japanese women writers, their battles against conservative literary expectations, and their wonderful, at times subversive creativity. She has translated the works of writer Uno Chiyo and novelist Kirino Natsuo. Her translation of Kirino’s The Goddess Chronicle won the PEN Translates Award, English PEN in 2013 and The Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature, 2014-2015.

Copeland was born the fourth daughter to missionary parents in a Japan still recovering from the aftermath of war.  Shortly after her birth, the family relocated to Wake Forest, North Carolina, where she spent glorious childhood days running carefree through the quiet town and listening to her older sisters relay their stories about Japan.  As a junior in college, Copeland had the opportunity to spend a year in Japan, where she studied traditional dance, learned to wear a kimono, and traveled, making ridiculous mistakes in the Japanese language. Afterwards she earned a PhD in Japanese literature at Columbia University, and she is now a professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

Rebecca's Work

Creative Writing

My work travels between Japan and the Blue Ridge Mountains, tracing the lines of memory, identity, and self-discovery.


Academic Writing

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.


“Dr. Rebecca Copeland’s translation of The Goddess Chronicle by Kirino Natsuo provides an enticing glimpse into the Japanese creation myth, but her own novel, The Kimono Tattoo, is an absolutely riveting narrative peopled by fully rounded characters that breathe life into an adventurous mystery enacted in the ancient capital of Kyoto. As a literary scholar, I am in awe of her accomplishment; as a reader, I couldn’t put it down.”

—S. Yumiko Hulvey, Emerita
University of Florida