The Teahouse Fire (2006) --
Winner 2006 Lambda Literary Award for
Lesbian Debut Fiction
A sweeping debut novel drawn from a history shrouded in secrets about two
women-one American, one Japanese-whose fates become entwined in the rapidly
changing world of late-nineteenth-century Japan.
When nine-year-old Aurelia Bernard takes shelter in Kyoto's beautiful and
mysterious Baishian teahouse after a fire one night in 1866, she is unaware
of the building's purpose. She has just fled the only family she's ever
known: after her French immigrant mother died of cholera in New York, her
abusive missionary uncle brought her along on his assignment to Christianize
Japan. She finds in Baishian a place that will open up entirely new worlds
to her- and bring her a new family.
It is there that she discovers the woman who will come to define the next
several decades of her life, Shin Yukako, daughter of Kyoto's most important
tea master and one of the first women to openly practice the sacred ceremony
known as the Way of Tea. For hundreds of years, Japan's warriors and
well-off men would gather in tatami-floored structures- teahouses- to
participate in an event that was equal parts ritual dance and sacramental
meal. Women were rarely welcome, and often expressly forbidden. But in the
late nineteenth century, Japan opened its doors to the West for the first
time, and the seeds of drastic changes that would shake all of Japanese
society, even this most civilized of arts, were planted.
Taking her for the abandoned daughter of a prostitute rather than a
foreigner, the Shin family renames Aurelia "Urako" and adopts her as
Yukako's attendant and surrogate younger sister. Yukako provides Aurelia
with generosity, wisdom, and protection as she navigates a culture that is
not accepting of outsiders. From her privileged position at Yukako's side,
Aurelia aids in Yukako's crusade to preserve the tea ceremony as it starts
to fall out of favor under pressure of intense Westernization. And Aurelia
herself is embraced and rejected as modernizing Japan embraces and rejects
an era of radical change.
An utterly absorbing story told in an enchanting and unforgettable voice,
The Teahouse Fire is a lively, provocative, and lushly detailed
historical novel of epic scope and compulsive readability.
Seventeen Reasons (Ongoing)
Ellis Avery is
seven years into a ten-year daily haiku project called Seventeen Reasons,
begun and continued as correspondence with her best friend Melissa Demian.
Several of these poems currently appear in
In Pieces: An Anthology of Fragmentary Writing.
Three Lines, One Road
(2001) with Melissa Demian -- Finalist National Poetry Series.
A year's worth of
daily haiku exchanged between the two authors
In Pieces: An Anthology of Fragmentary Writing (2006), Olivia Dresher,
In Pieces celebrates the diversity of contemporary fragmentary
writing by offering a sampling of fragments written by 37 different
writers--those who are known as well as new voices. Selections from diaries,
notebooks, and letters; aphorisms; short prose pieces and vignettes... These
are some of the fragmentary forms represented in this unique collection, the
first of its kind to present a wide range of fragmentary writing as its own
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