Ruth Ozeki Headshot
Report a problem with this profile
[email protected]

Ruth Ozeki        

Author, Filmmaker & Zen Buddhist Priest

Ruth Ozeki is an American-Canadian author, filmmaker and Zen Buddhist priest. Her books and films, including the novels My Year of Meats, All Over Creation, and A Tale for the Time Being, seek to integrate personal narrative and social issues, and deal with themes relating to science, technology, environmental politics, race, religion, war and global popular culture. Her novels have been translated into over thirty languages. She is a Professor of English Language and Literature at Smith College.

In 1985, Ozeki moved to New York City and began working as an art director and production designer for low-budget horror movies, including Mutant Hunt and Robot Holocaust. In 1988, she began working for Telecom Staff, a Japanese production company, coordinating, producing and directing documentary-style programs for Japanese TV. During this time, she directed episodes of See the World by Train and co-produced the pilot for the TV documentary miniseries Fishing With John, starring musician John Lurie and director Jim Jarmusch. Ozeki's first film, Body of Correspondence, made in collaboration with artist Marina Zurkow won the New Visions Award at the San Francisco Film Festival and was aired on PBS. Her second film, Halving the Bones, tells the autobiographical story of Ozeki’s journey as she brings her grandmother’s remains home from Japan. It was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and screened at the Museum of Modern Art, the Montreal World Film Festival, and the Margaret Mead Film Festival, among others.

Ozeki's debut novel My Year of Meats, based on her work in Japanese television, tells the story of two women, living on opposite sides of the world, whose lives are connected by a TV cooking show. My Year of Meats was awarded the 1998 Kiriyama Prize and the 1998 Imus/Barnes & Noble American Book Award. Her second novel, All Over Creation, focuses on a potato-farming family in Idaho and an environmental activist group opposing the use of GMOs. Author Michael Pollan called All Over Creation "a smart compelling novel about a world we don’t realize we live in." All Over Creation received the 2003 WILLA Literary Award for Contemporary Fiction and the 2004 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.

Ozeki's most recent novel, A Tale for the Time Being tells the story of a mysterious diary written by a troubled schoolgirl in Tokyo that's washed ashore on the Pacific Northwest coast of Canada, in the wake of the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. The diary is discovered by a novelist named Ruth, who becomes obsessed with discovering the girl's fate. A Tale for the Time Being was awarded the 2013 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction, and named the first recipient of the 2015 Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award (founded by the Leo Tolstoy Museum & Estate and Samsung Electronics) for the Best Foreign Novel of the 21st century. The book has received several other national and international awards, and has been published in over thirty countries.

In her first work of personal nonfiction, The Face: A Time Code, Ozeki writes about a three-hour observation experiment she conducted, in which she studied her reflection in a mirror and kept a log of thoughts that arose during that time. The Face: A Time Code was published as part of Restless Books' groundbreaking series, The Face, featuring authors Tash Aw and Chris Abani.

From 1982-1985, Ozeki taught in the English department at Kyoto Sangyo University, and founded an English language school in Kyoto, Japan. Currently, she is a Professor of English Language and Literature at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Ozeki was ordained as a Soto Zen Buddhist priest in 2010; she practices Zen Buddhism with Zoketsu Norman Fischer. She is the editor of the website Everyday Zen.

Speech Topics

An Evening with Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time Being

All Over Creation

My Year of Meats

The Japanese Way of Art and Film

Bi-Cultural Creativity


'A Tale for the Time Being,' by Ruth Ozeki -

In Ruth Ozeki's "Tale for the Time Being," a teenage Japanese girl's diary washes ashore off the Canadian coast and is found by an introspective novelist.

Related Speakers View all

More like Ruth