Young Adult
Emma Karas was raised in Japan; it’s the country she calls home. But when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, Emma’s family moves to a town outside Lowell, Massachusetts to stay with her grandmother while her mom undergoes treatment. Emma feels out of place in the U.S., begins to have migraines, and longs to be back in Japan. At her grandmother’s urging, she volunteers in a long-term care center to help Zena, a patient with locked-in syndrome, write down her poems. There, Emma meets Samnang, another volunteer, who assists elderly Cambodian refugees. Weekly visits to the care center, Zena’s poems, dance, and noodle soup bring Emma and Samnang closer, until Emma must make a painful choice: stay in Massachusetts, or return early to Japan. Delacorte/Random House, May 2013
How do you know if you’re responsible? After a bullied classmate commits suicide, Kana Goldberg is sent to her family’s home in Japan for the summer. Kana wasn’t the bully, not exactly, but she didn’t do anything to stop what happened, either. As Kana begins to process the pain and guilt she feels, news from home sends her world spinning out of orbit all over again. Delacorte/Random House, February 2011. “A fast-paced page-turner that explores the rippling effects of suicide.” –Kirkus Reviews 2012 APALA Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature
Tomo (meaning “friend” in Japanese) is an anthology of young adult short fiction in prose, verse and graphic art set in or related to Japan. This collection for readers age 12 and up features thirty-six stories—including ten in translation and two graphic narratives—contributed by authors and artists from around the world, all of whom share a connection to Japan. Tales of friendship, mystery, love, ghosts, magic, sci-fi and history will take readers to Japan past and present and to Japanese communities abroad. Proceeds from the sales will go to organizations that assist teens affected by the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Stone Bridge Press, March, 2012.
Bicultural Nanami goes seaweed gathering with her Japanese and American grandmothers. While translating for the two women she comes to understand they were at war when they were her age. "A heartwarming example of how being from different cultures, countries, and races and speaking another language are not really barriers to appreciation and acceptance..." --Multicultural Review
New Adult, Adult
"A wonderfully insightful novel about a young woman living within two cultures. Thompson adeptly explores the lasting bonds of friendship and the courage needed to face the past in order to embrace the future."—Gail Tsukiyama, author of Women of the Silk and The Samurai’s Garden
Short Stories, Poems, Articles and Essays
Holly Thompson's short stories, poems, articles and essays can be found in these anthologies, journals and magazines: click here

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A Note from Holly Thompson

Welcome to my website and my intercultural world.

Originally from Massachusetts, for nearly twenty years I have lived in Japan. My books reflect the crossing of cultures amid my family, among my students, and within the communities in which I find myself immersed.

My new verse novel, Falling into the Dragon's Mouth will be published by Henry Holt in 2016. Dragons are woven into the mythology of the hills, rivers, coast and temples of the Kamakura and Enoshima areas where I have lived in Japan for many years, and this lore appears in Dragon's Mouth, a story about a non-Japanese boy who practices aikido while struggling to find his way as an outsider in his seaside community in Japan.

My new picture book, Twilight Chant, a lyrical evocation of the transition between day and night and an exploration of the animals who thrive during this special time, is forthcoming from Clarion.

The Language Inside was a YALSA 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults title, a 2014 Notable Books for the Language Arts title, a 2014 Bank Street Books Best Books selection, and a Notable Book for a Global Society 2014. Learn a bit about the story behind the story here. The Discussion, Writing, Activity and Service Guide for The Language Inside is HERE. Download this extensive guide for discussion questions, poetry prompts, essay topics, extension activities and service ideas. Enjoy!

School Library Journal says of The Language Inside: "Thompson captures perfectly the feeling of belonging elsewhere. A sensitive and compelling read that will inspire teens to contemplate how they can make a difference." And Kirkus says: "As Emma volunteers, helping a physically disabled adult write poetry, and meets a multigenerational Cambodian community with Khmer Rouge history, Thompson nimbly braids political tragedy, natural disaster, PTSD, connections among families, and a cautious, quiet romance into an elegant whole." See excerpts of more reviews in the BOOKS section of this site.

My verse novel Orchards was awarded the 2012 APALA Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature and was a 2012 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults title. Kana is a Japanese and Jewish/American girl sent from her home in New York to spend the summer with relatives in Japan after the suicide of a classmate. I hope you'll join Kana as she is immersed in the tiny village of Kohama, working in the mikan orchards and trying to make sense of what happened. See the Orchards section of this website.

Visit the INTERVIEWS section of this site for lots of background on the stories I write.

If you'd like to invite me to speak at your school, please--contact me to inquire about an author visit.

Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction--An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories, the collection of 36 Japan-related stories that I edited and wrote the foreword to (see below), was published by Stone Bridge Press in March 2012. Check out the extensive Reader's Guide with all sorts of writing prompts and discussion questions and read interviews with the many contributors on the Tomo blog. Proceeds from the sales of Tomo continue to support teens in the areas of Tohoku, Japan, affected by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Read my HATBOOKS BLOG about travel to Cambodia and other parts of Asia, school visits, volunteer work in tsunami-hit Tohoku, mikan oranges and wakame seaweed, day-to-day Japan life, and teaching and writing.

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And may you have many wonderful cross cultural journeys.

Safe travels to you!

Holly Thompson