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Ellis Avery

contact (at) ellisavery.com
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Profile created February 12, 2007
  • 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.

  • The Smoke Week: Sept. 11-21, 2001 (20030 -- Winner of the Ohioana Library's Walter Rumsey Marvin Award; Notable Award 2004 Writers Notes Book Award for Culture
    New Yorker's personal account of the events of the worse terrorist attack the USA has ever faced.

  • 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

See also:
  • In Pieces: An Anthology of Fragmentary Writing (2006), Olivia Dresher, ed.
    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 genre.

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