Kate Walbert is the author of the award-winning books Our Kind, The Gardens of Kyoto, Where She Went, and A Short History of Women. Her plays include Year of the Woman, Quiet, She Said and Elsewhere.
Walbert was born in New York City but raised in Georgia, Texas, Japan, and Pennsylvania. After graduating from Choate Rosemary Hall, she attended Northwestern University's School of Communication before earning a Master's degree in English from NYU.
Walbert was a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Connecticut Commission on the Arts Fellowship. From 2011-2012, she was a Fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars at the NY Public Library. Her latest novel is The Sunken Cathedral (2015). She lives in New York City with her husband and daughters.
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An Interview with Kate Walberg
What was your initial inspiration for The Gardens of Kyoto?
My father's cousin, Charles Webster, was killed on Iwo Jima during what they called a "mopping up" operation -- essentially after the battle had been won. Charles was the only son of his beloved Aunt Maude, and they lived just a mile or so down the road from the land my father's family farmed on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. My father had been quite close to his cousin, his own brothers off fighting in Europe, but he never spoke of him to us except to describe the day Aunt Maude received the telegram announcing Charles' death. It was a single image, really, not a story at all. He simply recalled how Aunt Maude came and sat with his own mother at the kitchen table. The image stuck with me -- two silent women at the table, one with sons in battle in Europe, the other with a son dead in the Pacific -- and I supposed I wrote the initial story to try to give voice to that image.
You originally wrote The Gardens of Kyoto as a short story? How did you come to expand it into a novel?
The voice of the story surprised me. The narrator wasn't my father at all, but a woman of my mother's generation who had ...
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