Praise

for MY YEAR OF DIRT AND WATER: JOURNAL OF A ZEN MONK’S WIFE IN JAPAN:

“Intriguing. . . Franz writes in elegantly understated journal entries, each with a satisfying heft, like a rustic wabi-sabi tea bowl.” The New York Times

“In a year apart from everyone she loves, Tracy Franz reconciles her feelings of loneliness and displacement into acceptance and trust. Keenly observed and lyrically told, her journal takes us deep into the spirit of Zen, where every place you stand is the monastery.” Karen Maezen Miller, author of Paradise in Plain Sight: Lessons from a Zen Garden

“Tracy Franz’s poignant memoir, My Year of Dirt and Water, is full  of carefully observed details. . . what emerges is a discreet love story, but also an account of a woman discovering her own inner strength while living in Japan.”Suzanne Kamata, The Japan Times

“Tracy Franz’s My Year of Dirt and Water is both bold and quietly elegant in form and insight, and spacious enough for many striking paradoxes: the intimacy that arises in the midst of loneliness, finding belonging in exile, discovering real freedom on a journey punctuated by encounters with dark and cruel men, and moving forward into the unknown to finally excavate secrets of the past. It is a long poem, a string of koans and startling encounters, a clear dream of transmissions beyond words. And it is a remarkable love story that moved me to tears.”  Bonnie Nadzam, author of Lamb and Lionsand co-author of Love in the Anthropocene

“Crisp, glittering, deep and probing. . .”  Dai-En Bennage, translator of Zen Seeds

“My Year of Dirt and Water incorporates Zen, pottery, living abroad, and Franz’s past and present with skillful delicacy, connecting these elements as if by analogy. Traversing territory defined by lack, My Year of Dirt and Water offers the singular pleasure of a story that ‘obscures but is not obscured’.” Foreword Magazine

“An evocative look at the expat experience in Japan. . .” Lion’s Roar Magazine

“A popular tenet in Buddhism is the koan, a paradoxical question that monks are to meditate on in order to understand or unravel higher truths. My Year of Dirt and Water is filled with questions – on love and loneliness, on fulfillment and failure – and as Tracy ponders them (both behind and away from the potter’s wheel), it prompts a self-examination by the reader of their own state of awareness, happiness, and acceptance. . . there’s a hypnotic effect to Tracy’s storytelling – unrushed yet utterly page turning – that will make this a hard book to put down.”  Mandy Bartok, Uncovering Japan

“Many of her journal entries embody haiku-like precision: an experience, a query, something that may or may not be a transcendence. . . Life seen through a glass darkly, but with grace.” Sumeru Press

“My Year of Dirt and Water takes readers on a personal journey of reflection, posing questions that are larger than the life in which they arose. The very act of reading this journal is meditative, prompting a profound stillness worth experiencing and definitely worth recommending.” World Literature Today

“A narrative treat. . . Tracy Franz takes you to a sometimes magical and sometimes complex world, but one very much full in enriching experiences.” JQ Magazine

“The beauty of the descriptions will make you want to pick up your own clay, or more likely, search out whatever piece of Japanese culture lies closest to your heart.” Ian Yates, GaijinPot

“[Tracy Franz] is a warm, calm, and curious voice that allows us to see Japan in an accessible way.” Cannonball Read

“The vivid and highly distilled prose drew me in from the beginning and gave me the pleasurable sense of a journey to a world different from my own.”Noelle Oxenhandler, Tricycle Magazine

“Tracy Franz’s memoir, My Year of Dirt and Water, is a remarkable account of a woman’s sojourn, largely in Japan, while her husband undergoes a year-long training session in a Zen Buddhist monastery. Difficult, disciplined, and interesting as the husband’s training toward becoming a monk may be, it is the author’s tale that has our attention here.” John Keeble, author of seven books, including The Shadows of Owls

“Franz lovingly introduces readers to the intimate parts of Japanese culture and society, while using what she’s learned to look honestly at her own life.” The Literary Review

“Knit together into a refined poetic thrum, this work offers novel paths of expression that encourage (and challenge) the reader to re‑value intimacy in caring for the world—whether broken or whole, healing or wounding. As Simone Weil comments, ‘distance is the soul of beauty’—allowing this distance to be felt just as it is, is hard indeed. The reader will be enriched by a sanctuary of words, by the author’s heartbeat and compassionate sense of beauty.” Richard Gilbert, author of Poetry as Consciousness: Haiku Forests, Space of Mind, and an Ethics of Freedom

“Franz’s beautifully crafted memoir chronicles the months that she and her husband, both Americans, lived in Japan, separated by the rules of the Zen monastery where Koun was cloistered. Presented as a diary, the book is both immediate and reflective, full of anecdotes from Franz’s daily life as a gaijin as well as meditations on time, love, culture, and more. Franz is a compassionate and keenly observant writer, always trying to understand the rituals that shape her new life, and, as in her pottery class, always feeling she fails. Yet ultimately she learns to understand by not understanding, to see by not seeing—lessons which also help her confront the difficulties of her past. As she comes to accept the damaged and flawed parts of herself she’d once wanted only to abandon, her writing grows steadily more relaxed and humorous, her stories more vivid. By the end, you’ll miss both Franz and the many students, colleagues, monks, and relatives she’s helped you get to know. But you’ll also recognize that letting go is part of keeping, a truth Franz gestures to in her title, with its allusion to the primary elements of pottery: what remains and what flows away.” Politics and Prose Bookstore (Staff Pick)