“Heartfelt and beautifully written, Secrets of the Sun is a tale of two quests—a father’s to solve the mysteries of the universe and a daughter’s to solve the mysteries of the father. One of the most compelling memoirs I’ve read in some time.” —Jerald Walker, author of National Book Award finalist How to Make a Slave and Other Essays
“In this moving account of her brilliant and abusive physicist father, Mako Yoshikawa disentangles the twisted strands of racism, misogyny, and cultural displacement that complicate both his madness and her love. A fascinating exploration that expands the boundaries of what a family memoir can be.” —Ruth Ozeki, author of The Book of Form and Emptiness
Mako Yoshikawa’s father, Shoichi, was a man of contradictions. He grew up fabulously wealthy in prewar Japan but spent his final years living in squalor; he was a proper Japanese man who craved society’s approval yet cross-dressed; he was a brilliant Princeton University physicist and renowned nuclear fusion researcher, yet his career withered as his severe bipolar disorder tightened its grip. And despite his generosity and charisma, he was often violent and cruel toward those closest to him. Yoshikawa adored him, feared him, and eventually cut him out of her life, but after he died, she was driven to try to understand this extraordinarily complex man. In Secrets of the Sun, her search takes her through everything from the Asian American experience of racism to her father’s dedication to fusion energy research, from mental illness to the treatment of women in Japan, and more. Yoshikawa gradually discovers a life filled with secrets, searching until someone from her father’s past at last provides the missing piece in her knowledge: the story of his childhood. Secrets of the Sun is about a daughter’s mission to uncover her father’s secrets and to find closure in the shadow of genius, mental illness, and violence.
Photo by Rob Sabal
Mako Yoshikawa is the author of the novels Once Removed and One Hundred and One Ways. Her essays have been published in LitHub, Harvard Review, Southern Indiana Review, Missouri Review, and Best American Essays, among other places. She is a professor of creative writing and directs the MFA program at Emerson College. She lives in Boston and Baltimore.
My Father’s Women
Work Equals Force Times Displacement
When Tojo Came to Visit
Clothes Make the Man
Pressure Equals Force Divided by Area
Force Equals Mass Times Acceleration