Novelist Ruth Ozeki stares into a mirror for 3 hours - not exactly an exciting premise, yet somehow, she makes this experiment absolutely riveting. By studying the lines on her face in moment-to-moment detail, Ozeki reflects upon her upbringing and her life today as a bestselling author, revealing more about her true self in this short book than in any of her novels.
“Ruth Ozeki, a Zen Buddhist priest, sets herself the task of staring at her face in a mirror for three full, uninterrupted hours; her ruminations ripple out from personal and familial memories to wise and honest meditations on families and aging, race and the body.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
What did your face look like before your parents were born? In The Face: A Time Code, bestselling author and Zen Buddhist priest Ruth Ozeki recounts, in moment-to-moment detail, a profound encounter with memory and the mirror. According to ancient Zen tradition, “your face before your parents were born” is your true face. Who are you? What is your true self? What is your identity before or beyond the dualistic distinctions, like father/mother and good/evil, that define us?
With these questions in mind, Ozeki challenges herself to spend three hours gazing into her own reflection, recording her thoughts, and noticing every possible detail. Those solitary hours open up a lifetime's worth of meditations on race, aging, family, death, the body, self doubt, and, finally, acceptance. In this lyrical short memoir, Ozeki calls on her experience of growing up in the wake of World War II as a half-Japanese, half-Caucasian American; of having a public face as an author; of studying the intricate art of the Japanese Noh mask; of being ordained as a Zen Buddhist priest; and of her own and her parents’ aging, to paint a rich and utterly unique portrait of a life as told through a face.
Alternately philosophical, funny, personal, political, and poetic, the short memoirs in The Face series offer unique perspectives from some of our favorite writers. Find out more at www.restlessbooks.com/the-face.
About the Author
Ruth Ozeki is a novelist, filmmaker, and Zen Buddhist priest. Her first two novels, My Year of Meats (1998) and All Over Creation (2003), have been translated into 11 languages and published in fourteen countries. Her most recent work, A Tale for the Time-Being (2013), was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and has been published in over thirty countries. A longtime Buddhist practitioner, Ruth ordained in 2010 and is affiliated with the Brooklyn Zen Center and the Everyday Zen Foundation. She lives in British Columbia and New York City.
“Ruth Ozeki, a Zen Buddhist priest, sets herself the task of staring at her face in a mirror for three full, uninterrupted hours; her ruminations ripple out from personal and familial memories to wise and honest meditations on families and aging, race and the body.” —Patricia Hagen, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“This long essay, like the experiment it describes, is strange in the best sense, plus funny, moving and deeply wise.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“The Face, as with the best of literary nonfiction, incorporates elements of memoir and essay, conjecture and meditation, allowing the reader to accompany each author as he or she creates a text that is utterly unique and universally affecting. Each book, on its own, is quirky, funny, sad, and profound; taken together, they have much to tell us about the culture at large, the ties that bind, and the truth — painful, hopeful, reassuring, provocative — of our place on the continuum as daughters, sons, and citizens. It’s a brilliant idea: give a bunch of good writers a prompt that is at once personal and political, and you’re bound to send readers running to the mirror, turning this way and that in an effort to reckon with who they are and who they want to be.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
“Throughout Ozeki’s essay her refreshing and cultivated wisdom leads us through the mind of a compassionate, grounded human and a writer of real integrity.” —Electric Literature
“One of the most compelling through-lines is not surprisingly the problematics of a mixed race upbringing . . . It is fascinating to hear about Ozeki’s life . . . Ozeki squarely considers the thorny politics around aging and questions of beauty. Here, Ozeki ponders the kinds of decisions that go into things like plastic surgery and an author’s publicity photo. As always, Ozeki injects humor into her prose, a characteristic of all of her earlier publications, making this reading experience undoubtedly captivating.” —Asian American Literature Fans
“Ozeki is one of my favorite novelists . . . bewitching, intelligent, hilarious, and heartbreaking, often on the same page.” —Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of This Is How You Lose Her
"She is a writer who brings us perspectives we often fail to recognize in American literature . . . She explores the boundaries between different identities, Japanese and American, and her writing offers us insight on how such cultures can intersect and at times conflict with one another . . . An exciting author on the cusp of national recognition.” —John Dos Passos Prize for Literature committee