I Tried: A Playlist 1990-1992

Here is the second playlist for the high school memoir: I Tried.

The first playlist is all new wave (with a little L'Trimm thrown in), but there are surprisingly few mentions of music during my junior and senior years in high school. Much of my soundtrack from those years was choir with lots of a cappella.

Two of those songs are from the a cappella group Mint Juleps and the girls in swing choir that year actually recorded them. I don't think we sounded so great... but here are those songs.

"Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher"

This second one is Mint Juleps "Don't Let Your Heart."

I also remember loving this song and album during my last years in Bend: Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me."

This moment didn't make the book either, but I have this distinct memory of watching A Room With A View and this song and this kiss take me right back to all that I hoped I would find in life and love.

This is the song we sang in choir our senior year. It's a French madrigal that I remember simply calling "Mon Coeur." It's pretty beautiful and this is what we sang in the pool room at the Hearst Castle.

I guess I'll end this short playlist with our class song: Alphaville's "Forever Young." We made a good choice, MVHS Class of 1992.

I Tried is available now! You can get in touch with me directly, order from an online retailer or your local independent book seller.


I Tried: 1988- 1990 Playlist

My freshman year, I was still listening to the music that defined middle school: George Michael and INXS. But as the 80s came to a close, the music shifted too, and these are a few of the songs from those days.

Scene: these are two of the songs I remember listening to with Dayna during those years. When In Rome's "Promises" and Love and Rockets' "So Alive."

Scene: the DJ mix tapes: Depeche Mode's "Shake the Disease" and "Enjoy the Silence," Jane's Addiction's "Classic Girl," and Church's "Under the Milky Way."

Scene: Marney and Gretchen's Air Band hit: L'Trimm's "Cars that Go Boom."

Scene: REM's GREEN is the soundtrack to my early driving days, particularly "Hairshirt," "You are the Everything," and "Night Swimming."


I Tried: Tales of an Emerging High School Feminist

I Tried: Tales of an Emerging High School Feminist is here.

The Nakadas in 1988 and 1992.
I Tried tells of the days in-between. 
Today, on my oldest brother's birthday, the third book in the Through Eyes Like Mine series is ready for the world. It has gone through so many revisions. I wrote it in present tense, changed it to past, and then changed it back again. I drafted poems and worked them in. I took them all out. I created a preface and an afterword. I took them both out. I drafted notes for my past self before each school year. I cut them out.

The manuscript sat with agents, and then with a small press. They passed, but asked for revisions. I revised. They asked to see it again. They passed.

I'm not passing. It is here, in its simplest, most distilled form. It matches the style of Through Eyes Like Mine and Overdue Apologies, even though our narrator is clearly growing up. It has been read by dear friends from high school: Loretta, Sarah, Val, Holly, Dayna, Jamie, Jason and Matt, and by family. Other friends and family passed on reading it. That's okay. It is a book, and it is done. It is about what happens to a girl in high school. It is about what happened to me as I prepared to fly into the world. 

Within the pages of I Tried are: "Picture Day" which first appeared in Compose, "Geometry" published in Lady Liberty Lit, and "Open Gym" from East Jasmine Review. 

For your listening pleasure, the soundtrack for this book includes songs by The Smiths, The Smitheereens, The Cure, Jane's Addiction, The Church, REM and Depeche Mode. I'll post a playlist like the ones for the first books in the coming weeks. 

Until then, enjoy I Tried, and please know, I did my best. 


I'm Sorry, Again: Doing Right by Overdue Apologies...

I work at Emerson, a wonderful little middle school in Los Angeles. I've taught here for twenty years, and it's where I've gotten to know so many young people and learned so much about myself as a person, a teacher, and a writer. And it is at Emerson that I learned to forgive the Pilot Butte Junior High School girl from the second book in the Through Eyes Like Mine series: Overdue Apologies.

When this book first came out, there was no big release, no launch party, no readings. I wasn't ashamed of the book, no, I think I was still just a little unsure of the girl I was in middle school and of the choices I made. But I forgive my students every day, and I believe that is what makes a good middle school teacher: thick skin and short-term memory. But I'd spend years thinking about the girl I was in middle school, so my memories were raw.

But you know who loved that girl and this book? My students. They gave me feedback, created book projects, and talked with me about my book. They wrote summaries about reflected on how they saw themselves in the pages. They checked out my book, they read it, and passed it on to friends. They stole it. Through them, I learned to love and believe in my middle school memoir.

So here it is again, this time with a wonderful foreword from my oldest brother, Chet, who is living with his middle-school-aged daughter now.

Since publication, "Challenger" appeared in Specter and "Winter Ball" in Sky Island Journal.

If you've read Through Eyes Like Mine, but have been scared to read Overdue Apologies, I get it. Middle school is scary, but on its re-release, I hope you'll be brave enough to go back. Let me know if you need a copy of this or of the trilogy.

Tomorrow, I Tried.


Celebrating Through Eyes Like Mine

This weekend, I watched my little ones chase a ball across green grass. I moved laundry from hamper, to washer, to dryer, folded and put away small pajamas, underwear, socks, shirt, shorts, and sweaters. Friends came over to play, and we watched sports and movies and snuggled on the couch on a fall weekend when the weather in our city was still to hot for my liking. I went to bed tired each night from the day. 

Looking back at Through Eyes Like Mine, this early childhood memoir told by the child I once was, I realize now there is no way I could have written this book after having kids. My perspective on my own childhood has shifted so much, even though the memories are the same. 

It’s ready. The re-release of Through Eyes Like Mine is available for purchase. You can find it on Amazon (I know, complicated) or buy it directly from me (send me a message). Or you can request it from your local bookseller. 

This release has a new foreword by my sister, Laura Yukiko Nakada Flennaugh, and the cover was updated by my niece, Laura's daughter, Nicole Flennaugh.

The rest of the book is pretty much the same. But since it’s release in 2010, it was shortlisted for the 2040 Book Prize in 2018. An excerpt, “Big Brother” was published by Hippocampus in 2011.

And after the last presidential election, it seems even more important to illuminate the complexities of growing up multiracial in rural Oregon.

It is the first in the Through Eyes Like Mine series, and in the coming days, you will be able to order the others. 

The soundtrack to this album includes: Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Getting to Know You” from The King and I, Cat Stevens’ “Morning Has Broken,” and U2’s “Sunday, Bloody Sunday.” 

Excerpts have also appeared on the blog, so if you want a taste check out “Snow Day,” “Surviving Easter,” "Wishing for Snow," “Movie Night," “Chet’s Return."

And tomorrow, we'll revisit middle school with Overdue Apologies. I know. No one wants to go back there, but I'm there nearly every day. 


Support An Independent Author (Me)

The release of the final book in the Through Eyes Like Mine series is a few weeks away. Edits are complete; proof copies have been combed through, tweaked and edited. I'm so close to the end of this project, so why am I still battling my decision to publish these books independently?

It might have been a conversation I had this weekend, and the implication that publishing my books on my own is a decision I made lightly; that I'm doing this with a sense of resignation.

How many agents have you queried?
How many presses?
How many rejections?
How many times have you been told no in regard to these books?

My answer: I've accumulated about thirty passes over a decade. Some think this is nothing. There are authors who finally get published after their 50th or 100th or 200th query. There are also authors who query agents, land with an agent, and their books still don't sell. There are books that get picked up by small presses and make a run of a few hundred copies. Some presses don't do much to promote a book, and their books quietly fade into obscurity. Some presses produce beautiful books, and some books have typos and ugly covers. There are small presses that print a small number of copies, and the authors never see a cent of the profit.

So, my decision to publish on my own makes sense to me, but I had to write this in order to remind myself.

I want people to be able to read my books. I want to see the books, to hold them in my hands, to read from them, and gift them to friends, and I want to receive royalty payments. I want to complete this series, and move on to other projects, and I'm willing to do the work to make it happen.

I hope you'll support indie authors. I hope you'll support me. Buy the books. Read the books. Talk about the books. If you are interested in the process of independent publishing, ask. I am working outside traditional publishing and it's scary, and I don't always know what I'm doing, but I know it's right for me, and it's right for these books.

As I wait on the release of I Tried, I'm still convinced independent is the way I want to go.


Vying for Mom's Blessing

Nine years ago, I sat in a coffee shop and wrestled words into their final form in Through Eyes Like Mine. I believed in the work. It’s a non-traditional memoir. It exists even though I’m not famous and haven’t survived a cult or unspeakable tragedy. I’m not a recovering addict or childhood star. It is a quiet book, a child’s story, told by a not-so-old writer. I shared it with my mom and the rest of my family, and with a few corrections and clarifications, they all stood behind it.

Christmas: 1981
When Overdue Apologies came out two years later, I tried to hold my middle school memoir to the same standard, but it is a different book. It is about a time most people would rather forget. I teach middle school, so I know it’s cringy because adolescence is cringe-worthy. My family laughed awkwardly throughout Overdue Apologies, but along with my middle school friends, they helped shape the work. My mom wondered what she was up to during my middle school adventure, but she supported its release. It came out just as I was about to have a baby, so I didn’t give it the launch it deserved. I was expecting, but I also wasn’t sure the world wanted a middle school memoir.

Now, as I ready I Tried for publication, the process feels the same but different. I am still pouring over the words, attempting to make it as perfect as possible. I have to steal time, just like before, but now there are two kids vying for my attention. The world is a different place with widening gaps between the haves and have nots, rural and urban, white and other, but these differences make these books feel more important. I shared the manuscript with family and friends who again influenced it, but the biggest difference this time is my mom isn’t here.

Summer: 1991
My mom was my first reader. She was my first ask about memory accuracy. She helped clarify my recollections. She framed the events in my early books, but with I Tried, I couldn’t ask what she remembered about my sixteenth birthday or Dad’s fall off the roof. She would have hated reading about the limits of white feminism, but I still think she would support this book. She would correct a few facts, tell me which parts were hard for her to read; which ones made her laugh or cry. She would love the snapshots of our family from the porch in Bend, and question the choices she made along the way.

I hope Mom can help me find a few last typos. I hope she will fact check my memory like she always has. I hope in some dream tonight or in the nights to come, she will look up from the rushing white water of the Deschutes and forgive the white feminist she was and the flawed feminist I am. I hope she will somehow give this last book her blessing and know: I tried.


10 years of blogging later...

Ten years ago, I started this blog. August, 10, 2009. Well, clearly I missed that anniversary.

Back then, I had the idea that maybe a publisher would stumble upon my blog, want to publish my book or at least my thoughts, and I hoped a blog could help me build a readership. It's been ten years, and not a single publisher has come knocking on my door, but I have found readers. Thanks for tagging along.

In that first year, I wrote about visiting China, fertility, the Dodgers, and then excerpted a bunch of a novel in progress, New LA Life, that still isn't done. I started a second blog, Throwing Cookies, for writing about sports, and I wrote a lot about food and education.

Nine years and 250 blog posts later, so much has changed since 2010. Back then, I was five years post MFA. I was teaching, eating at LA food trucks, and playing lots of beach volleyball. David and I were working hard to get pregnant, but we were not getting pregnant. The country was living in President Obama's first term.

In 2010, I wrote about my decision to self-publish Through Eyes Like Mine and included a mixtape. In 2012, I wrote about my middle school memoir, Overdue Apologies. Then, Kiara arrived, and although I tried to keep reading and writing and reclaiming my brain, it was hard. When Gabe showed up, it was even harder. But now, nine years later, I'm finally ready to complete the coming of age Through Eyes Like Mine series.

I Tried: Tales from an Emerging High School Feminist explores what it means to be a young woman of color growing up in rural America. In the final installation of the Through Eyes Like Mine series, Nori teeters on the edges of adulthood and navigates shifting expectations of her community, her family, and herself. I Tried examines the challenges and isolation a multiracial girl faces in small-town America.

Stay tuned. More in the next couple of weeks.


She said she would publish the books herself.

It's been almost nine years and two kids since the release of Through Eyes Like Mine, my early childhood memoir. My decision to publish this book on my own came after the manuscript sat with an agent for about a year, then made its way through publishing houses where editors complimented the writing but found it too quiet, so I resolved to launch the book myself. I planned readings in Oregon with family and friends, and I was happy to place the book in the hands of receptive readers.

It's been over seven years since Overdue Apologies, my middle school memoir quietly made it's way into the world. Motherhood was right around the corner, and I knew my life was about to change making the work of finding a home for this manuscript even more challenging. I never properly launched the book or made time for readings, but it has also made it's way into readers' hands and found fans with middle school audiences.

Since then, stealing time for writing has become harder. Teaching and parenting make time management even more important. Early mornings are still key, and in November, the words come during National Novel Writing Month, and in April, for National Poetry Month, I've written a poem a day ever since Kima Jones spent her time as a PEN fellow visiting poet in my classroom. My writing partner, Hazel Kight Witham, and I have continued to meet weekly to focus our writing and teaching practices. We have also escaped to writing residencies at Wellstone Center in the Redwoods. These spaces mean that the final book in the Through Eyes Like Mine trilogy is finally ready for the world.

I've also spent time over the past few years building to emerging as a writer with Women Who Submit, an organization empowering women and non-binary writers to submit their work for publication. As part of this submitting work, Through Eyes Like Mine was chosen as a finalist for the inaugural 2040 book prize. Excerpts from Overdue Apologies appeared in Spector and Sky Island Journal. As my publishing credits grew, I decided to try find a traditional publisher for the high school memoir. Again, I queried agents, submitted to small presses, and excerpts from this work appeared in Compose, Lady Liberty Lit, and East Jasmine Review.

Senior portrait of the author.
Then, after the 2016 election, with conversations about the divide between rural and urban America intensifying, my high school memoir and all of the books in the Through Eyes Like Mine trilogy gained significance. Books like Hillbilly Elegy and White Trash became best sellers, but the perspective of a young girl of color coming of age in rural America was missing. This book is what's missing. The books in this trilogy are the missing books, and now the third book is ready.

In the next few weeks, I'll be re-releasing Through Eyes Like Mine and Overdue Apologies with updated covers and forewords by my sister, Laura Yukiko Nakada Flennaugh and my brother, Chet Nakada. Like with the first two books, I will launch playlists and excerpts and this go around signed, personally bound copies of the trilogy will be available as I Tried: Tales of an Emerging High School Feminist will FINALLY be here! Whoooo hooo!


Culmination Address for the Class of 2019

Each year I write an original oratory hoping my students will take the form and write speeches of their own. Some years the process is a struggle, but when I sat down to write this speech, I knew exactly what I would remember about this year. I will miss this group of students so much. Remember, y'all, everyday is Newday. And to all of the students, teachers, and families who lived through the strike of 2019, congrats! We made it!

Stand Up

It was raining in Los Angeles. Not just a misting, like we often get in May Gray and June Gloom. No, it was pouring down rain, and it wasn’t just for a day. For a whole week, it was torrential. Roads washed out. Canyons cut loose with mud and debris. Shoes and clothes drenched in the time it takes to walk from the car to the house. This past January, it really rained in LA.

photo by Sophie Sanchez
Maybe you remember this rain. Or maybe you remember something else. Maybe you remember swollen crowds of red flooding into the streets, or driving past school after school where educators stood in red raincoats and beneath umbrellas, holding signs, chanting, and even dancing. Or maybe you just remember being home, or at school, where in addition to the rain, things were not as they usually are.

This year, we all went on strike. We prepared for the strike, went on strike, and recovered from the strike together. It wasn’t just the teachers union, it was all of us. In pouring down rain, for more than a week we all were on strike. We stood up for our schools and our city and the students and families in it.

In the days before the strike, many of you asked, “When are we going on strike?” And during the strike many of you stood in support by staying home, or passing out high-fives on the picket line, or by joining us and saying, “We support our teachers; we deserve better.”

When resolution came and victories for our schools were won, we all came back. We got back to work in our crowded classrooms. We worked because what else can you do while you wait to see smaller classes, nurses everyday, and libraries staffed with teacher librarians? You keep working.

But I’m not here to tell you work hard. You’ve finished your days at Emerson, so you know something about hard work. You already know that, as Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “Without work one finishes nothing.” And after the strike, you came back to class and read To Kill A Mockingbird. We discussed all the ways we can stand up in the world and do what we believe is right, even if it is unpopular. That is what I hope you will take with you to high school.

Emerson's line stays strong!
For a few rainy days in January, we had the chance to stand up for our schools, but opportunities like this don’t come around every day. The next time you can, will you stand up for what you believe?

Atticus Finch says, “Courage is when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”

The world will need you to stand up against prejudice and pollution, for refugees and respect, and in a millions ways we cannot even imagine. But I believe in you, Class of 2019, and I hope when the world asks who are you? What do you believe? You will have the courage to stand up and tell the world your truth.