Marnie Mueller was born in the Tule Lake Japanese American Segregation Camp. She is the author of three novels: Green Fires, The Climate of the Country, and My Mother's Island. Her hybrid Biography/Memoir, The Showgirl and the Writer: A friendship forged in the aftermath of the Japanese American incarceration, was published by Peace Corps Writer in July 2023.
Marnie is a recipient of an American Book Award, the Maria Thomas Award for Outstanding Fiction, the Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award, the New York Public Library Best Books for the Teenage, a New York Times Book Review New and Noteworthy in Paperback, and a Barnes and Noble "Discover Great New Writers" choice. Her short stories, poetry, and essays have been widely published in magazines and anthologies.
I'm thrilled to announce the publication of The Showgirl and the Writer, a hybrid memoir/biography about my long friendship with Mary Mon Toy, a Nisei performer. Published July 14, 2023 by Peace Corps Writers — an imprint of Peace Corps Worldwide.
"The Showgirl and the Writer is an entrancing memoir, tangled up with a
disgraceful piece of U.S. history, and a portrait of a fascinating woman...
I hung on every paragraph."
~ John Thorndike, Author The World Against Her Skin
"Mysterious, moving, and heartfelt, The Showgirl and the Writer, expands our limited knowledge of Japanese American mainstream performing artists, the lingering effects of the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans..."
~ Brian Niiya, editor of the Densho Encyclopedia and Encyclopedia of Japanese American History
Mary Mon Toy, a Japanese American performer, and I encountered each other by chance in late winter of 1994. Soon after, she sought me out. Both our lives changed as we began to meet, and our friendship developed. I ask myself now, years later, why I was drawn to Mary and she to me? There is no easy answer. There were many layers of our relationship, in which we presented true and false identities, and intermittently were both caring and resentful. Our ambivalence makes sense if you think of this as a love story of sorts spanning generations, art, politics, race, and ethnicity — driven by the bond of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. What follows is a tale of a fifteen-year friendship between two women — one Asian, one Caucasian of Jewish descent, one an actress and showgirl, one a fiction writer — who kept secrets as much from each other as we did from ourselves and the world.
~ Marnie Mueller
When we were young, Auntie Mary loomed larger than life. We always sat cross-legged at her feet, enthralled to watch as each spidery false lash magically transformed her eyelids. Our dad's older sister and sole sibling was Mary Watanabe. To us, "Mary Mon Toy" was just her catchy showbiz moniker, not realizing it hid her Japanese-ness so deftly that her obituary shocked her hometown community when it revealed that she was not Chinese… We now see the grit and resilience that Mary (Mon Toy Watanabe) needed in order to gain a professional foothold in an America embedded with prejudice against Asians and with particular hostility toward Japanese Americans after the war's end. Mary was like others in persecuted groups who are given the paradoxical choice to "pass" by masking their true identities, and who then bear an internal weight and cost for that decision for the remainder of their lives.
~ Mary Mon Toy's nieces, Lori Watanabe Saginaw and Wendy Watanabe
2023 Sarton Award Finalist!
It is an honor to be named a Finalist in the Non-Fiction Category of The Sarton Award by Story Circle Network. The awards are presented in six categories (memoir, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, nonfiction, young adult fiction, and middle-grade fiction). The award program is named in honor of May Sarton, who is remembered for her outstanding contributions to women's literature as a memoirist, novelist, and poet. Sarton memoirs, novels, and nonfiction books are distinguished by the compelling ways they honor the lives of women and girls and are limited to books published by independent authors and publishers.
Winners and finalists will be announced in April, 2024 on SCN platforms.
Praise for "The Showgirl and the Writer"
A fascinating book and a brave one!
~ Susan Quinn, author of Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady
An illuminating take on a sometimes hidden but important corner of twentieth century American history.
~ Alix Kates Shulman, author of Memoirs of an Ex-prom Queen
I was fascinated by this seamless combination of memoir, biography, and examination of the effects of racial and ethnic prejudice on two women.
~ Ellen Meeropol, author of The Lost Women of Azalea Court
...an important addition to the history of US exclusion and mass incarceration of non-whites.
~ Setsuko Sato Winchester, artist, historian and former NPR editor, is creator of the Freedom from Fear/Yellow Bowl Project
The insights that Mueller brings to her discoveries—about art, performance, sexuality, ethnicity, class and gender—are profound.
~ Gail Pellett, Director, producer of documentary films for PBS, features for NPR, author "Forbidden Fruit - 1980 Beijing," A Memoir
The book arrived yesterday, and I did not intend to read it right away but I read the first few pages and was swept along by the current of the words and read late into the night. So many vivid scenes! Mueller has a wonderful, direct voice which speaks to us and is found in all her work. It is particularly strong and poignant here and makes us want to keep reading and keep reading.
~ Sheila Kohler, author of CRACKS and Once We Were Sisters: A Memoir
A deeply universal story of friendship with all its intimacies and resistances, regrets, devotions, longings, roots in the past and ups and downs in the present, but also of the deep relationship between history and intimate life.
~ Jane Lazarre, author of the classic The Mother Knot and Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness: A Memoir of a White Mother of Black Sons