The Ocean in the Closet

A novel by Yuko Taniguchi

May 1, 2007 • 5 x 7.5 • 268 pages • 978-1-56689-194-3

A girl reaches across an ocean to heal three generations from the aftermath of war.

Nine-year-old Helen Johnson needs to understand why her mother locks her in the closet of their 1975 California home and why her father, recently returned from Vietnam, seems so distant. On the other side of the ocean, Helen’s great-uncle Hideo struggles with the loss of his sister, Helen’s maternal grandmother, who became a comfort woman to American soldiers after the bombing of Hiroshima destroyed the family silk farm. When Helen travels to Japan to meet Hideo they start to unravel the circumstances of her mother’s adoption from Japan and the role that war has played in her family’s legacy. In this beautiful debut novel, Taniguchi weaves a compelling story from the secrets, burdens, and ultimate strength that lie in the human heart.

About the Author

Yuko Taniguchi, author of the critically acclaimed book of poetry Foreign Wife Elegy, was born in Yokohama, Japan, in 1975. At the age of fifteen, she came to the United States and attended high school in Maryland, obtaining her collegiate degrees in Minnesota, where she continues to make her home.


“Yuko Taniguchi’s writing is remarkable for its music and vision. In the sounds of ice breaking in the river, silkworms eating mulberry leaves in the night, and Mahler played on the double bass, her characters hear the music of human suffering and redemption.” —Kyoko Mori