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Image: Photos of people and research featured in the Spring/Summer 2014 edition of SF State Magazine

Shelf Life


Cover image from "Jet Black and the Ninja Wind" by Leza Lowitz

Girl Power

With her newest book, an SF State alum shifts from fine arts to martial arts
As a writer, editor and translator, Leza Lowitz (M.A., ’88) has produced more than a dozen books about Japanese literature and art, some of them in collaboration with her Japanese-born husband, Shogo Oketani. The couple’s latest project continues the focus on Japanese culture, but with a new spin: They’ve written a high-octane young adult thriller about a girl who discovers she’s a ninja.


“Jet Black and the Ninja Wind” (Tuttle Publishing, ’13) opens with 17-year-old Jet Black living on a Navajo reservation with her mother, who forces her to play “games” that sharpen her senses and build her strength. On her deathbed, Jet’s mother reveals the true intent of these games. She’s been preparing Jet to assume her rightful role as a kunoichi — a female ninja — so that she can return to her ancestral land in Japan and guard a family treasure. In the course of her journey, Jet uncovers more secrets, hones her ninja skills and battles a shadowy cabal that’s targeted her for death.


The book just earned a Young Adult Literature Award from the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association. Plans call for a trilogy, and Lowitz and Oketani are already at work on the next installment.


“I always joke that some couples finish each other’s sentences,” Lowitz says. “We finish each other’s books."



Cover image from “Compromise Cake: 

Lessons Learned from My Mother’s Recipe Box" by Nancy SpillerCompromise Cake:

Lessons Learned from My Mother’s Recipe Box

Counterpoint Press

After inheriting her troubled mother’s recipe box and finding an SF State teaching credential tucked inside, Nancy Spiller (B.A.,’76) wondered what other mysteries it held. Part memoir, part cookbook, Spiller’s investigation into her mother’s decline includes recipes like “My Man Cookies” and “Mrs. Brandt and Mrs. Parker’s Crumb Cake.”




Cover image from “The Translator" by Nina Schuyler

The Translator

Pegasus Books

Nina Schuyler’s (M.F.A., ’03) latest novel focuses on a renowned multilingual translator who awakens from a fall in her native San Francisco to discover she remembers only Japanese. She soon finds herself in a violent confrontation with an author displeased with her work — an experience that leads her to a new friend and a journey of self-discovery.




Cover image from “Glitter and Glue" by Kelly CorriganGlitter and Glue

Ballantine Books

After college, Kelly Corrigan’s (M.A., ’97) exotic adventure in Australia is cut short by limited funds. Hired as a nanny by a newly widowed father of two, she is forever changed by the job, as is her relationship with her own mother. Side effects of reading this best-selling memoir: tears, laughter and the sudden urge to call home.




Cover image from “A Circle of Wives" by Alice LaPlanteA Circle of Wives

Atlantic Monthly Press

How well do we know our spouses? The question reverberates throughout the pages of Creative Writing Lecturer Alice LaPlante’s new psychological thriller. Told in alternating points of view, this captivating whodunit introduces readers to three wives of a murdered polygamist and the rookie detective on the hunt for his killer.


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