Rebecca Copeland

Rebecca Copeland

Creative Writing

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

My older sister, Beth Copeland, is a poet, and I always imagined I would be one, too. I followed her to St. Andrews Presbyterian College (now University) where we both earned degrees in Creative Writing. But after graduation our paths diverged, and I pursued a Ph.D. in Japanese literature. Although literary translation allowed a tiny toehold in the creative realm, it wasn’t until the promise of retirement glistened in the offing that I finally returned to creative writing. Currently, my interests lie in fiction, both long form and short. I am drawn to stories that travel back and forth in time and allow the compression of place and memory.

Select Publications

Yamamba: In Search of the Japanese Mountain Witch

Edited by Rebecca Copeland and Linda C. Ehrlich, this anthology includes short stories, poems, essays, and interviews with performance artists, all on the topic of the enigmatic mountain witch.

Deep in the Japanese mountains lives a mythical woman, as potent and mysterious as Baba Yaga (Russia), as timeless as Spider Grandmother (Hopi).

Alluring, nurturing, dangerous, and vulnerable the yamamba, or Japanese mountain witch, has intrigued audiences for centuries. What is it about the fusion of mountains with the solitary old woman that produces such an enigmatic figure? And why does she still call to us in this modern, scientific era? This unique collection represents the creative and surprising ways artists and scholars from North America and Japan have encountered the yamamba.

The short story “Blue Ridge Yamamba,” Rebecca Copeland’s contribution to this volume, places the yamamba in conversation with an American scholar of Japanese folklore who has traveled to her parents’ mountain cabin for a little soul searching. It should come as no surprise that the Japanese yamamba, or mountain witch, feels right at home in the mountains of North Carolina.

Praise for Yamamba

“These are evocative and timely writings that foreground the protean presence and multifaceted dynamism of the yamamba (mountain witch) beyond place and before time. The authors dismantle the misogynist treatment of the yamamba in masculinist canons and resurrect her powerful voice and the silenced voices of all independent women.”—Jennifer Robertson, author of Robo Sapiens Japanicus: Robots, Gender, Family, and the Japanese Nation

“Yamamba: In Search of the Japanese Mountain Witch exemplifies the ways creative minds can upend sexist images to craft new engaging stories of female empowerment.” —Mari Boyd, Professor Emeritus, Sophia University

“Deftly unmasking the iconic Japanese witch through creative, scholarly, and speculative approaches, this collection is as enchanting and compelling as the yamamba herself.” —Kristen J. Sollée, author of Witches, Sluts, Feminists

The Kimono Tattoo

Silk unravels. Tattoos are 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


Suffice it to say that The Father-Daughter Plot makes a major contribution not only to the study of Japanese literature but also to feminist criticism and gender theory.

—Janet A. Walker, Monumenta Nipponica


Woman Critiqued will make us wonder why we thought we could grasp modern Japanese literature without concerted attention to what men and women had to say about women’s literary production.

—Norma M. Field, University of Chicago


This collection will be valuable not only to those interested in Japanese studies, but also for those with an interest in gender studies, queer studies and any field engaging with minority cultural or subcultural groups.

New Voices in Japanese Studies