Bio

I am a Chicago-based writer currently working on The Sin-Eaters, a novel based on Japanese mythology and folklore. In 2016 I received a Creative Artists Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, which allowed me to research and write in Japan for four months.  Excerpts from The Sin-Eaters received an inaugural Walter Dean Myers Grant from We Need Diverse Books in 2015 and won a Sterling Watson MFA Fellowship from Writers in Paradise in 2017.

With my sister, artist Cori Lin, I am producing YONSEI: The Legacy of Japanese-American Incarceration. We frequently collaborate on projects related to our Japanese-Taiwanese-American identity.

I received my MFA in creative nonfiction from the Pennsylvania State University, and my work has appeared in Passages North, [PANK], The Baltimore Review, and other publications.

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The Sin-Eaters

On the islands of the Five Crescents, seventeen-year-old Kaira is as feared as the cannibalistic oni demons or the tricky shape-shifting foxes. The birthmark on her collarbone identifies her as a Sin-Eater: a scapegoat, fated to atone for her community’s sins through annual rituals. But when her insular fishing village faces calamity– economic, environmental, political– the elders decide that her sacrifice can no longer be symbolic. The Sin-Eater, they declare, must burn.

The Sin-Eaters tells her story (and the stories of the women in her family) against a mythical island landscape based on the legends and folklore of 19th century Japan.

Of my work, the Chicago Reader writes:

Lin’s larger ongoing project, a parabolic novel populated with Japanese folklore, responds to what happened to her family during World War II. “People wonder why I’m so obsessed with mythology, since they’re just made-up stories from long ago,” Lin said. “But myths are a reflection of a society’s fears, and myths are prevalent today. Look at our ‘postfactual’ society, filled with all this fake news. What is fake news? Myths! We’re doing the exact same thing: creating stories to demonize people who are different, to prey on fear.”

 

YONSEI

With my sister, artist Cori Lin, I’m producing YONSEI: The Legacy of Japanese-American Incarceration. It will be a 48-page full-color book– an illustrated history that catalogues the evolution of Japanese-American (JA) identity since World War II-era internment.

Carol - Weight

While it is on one level a microcosm– a history of five generations of our Nakamura family amid the tight-knit JA community in Chicago– it more broadly depicts both the complicated relationship between Japanese-Americans as a people and America as a country.

Through a multi-generational lens, our book looks at the lasting effects of racism and government-sanctioned trauma, and how the incarceration has shaped JA feelings towards activism and politics today. One generation’s views towards Japanese-Americans is the next’s views towards Muslims; in this way history is cyclical. We believe one  way to break such cycles of fear, xenophobia, and racism is to illuminate the past. We want to show our family’s cycle as a way to make the past personal.

Additionally, YONSEI aims to illustrate other aspects of JA identity and life, including faith, food, and family. We’ve already spent months interviewing various family members from my 89-year-old grandfather, who at 13 was incarcerated with his entire family in the Amache incarceration camp, to my 8-year-old cousin, who is tYONSEI work samples_Grandpahree-fourths Japanese, one-fourth black, and had never heard of internment before. The book will include profiles and quotes from family members, framed by a larger narrative I’ve written that brings the themes– identity, alienation, assimilation, resistance–together.

Writing

While many of my essays and stories are available in print only, a select number are available to read online.

Dreamscape 8: The Geometry of Wanting and Forgetting
– Bat City Review (January 2016)
The Sole Keeper – [PANK] (September 2015) Lyric Essay 
Dreamscape 1: A Healing – The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts (July 2013) Lyric Essay
Dreamscape 2: Dear Pinocchio – Baltimore Review (July 2013) Lyric Essay
Savasana – r.kv.r.y (July 2012) Short Story
Miles– Escape Into Life (October 2011- Pushcart Prize nominated) Narrative Essay

Press:

In the Face of Trump, Writers Resist – John Wilmes, The Chicago Reader
Me, My Shelf, and I: Jami Nakamura Lin
– Laura Pearson, The Chicago Tribune (March 2015)

Other reviews/criticism/interviews/ephemera:

Write Between the Lines: Four Women Discuss Race, Art, and Writing – Superstition Review Blog (co-written, February 2017)
42nd Street Review –  Third Coast Review (February 2016)
The Shape of Things Review –  Third Coast Review (February 2016)
Safe Spaces at Sappho’s Salon – Third Coast Review (January 2016)
Interview with Mare Swallow [+ Part Two] – Gapers Block (November 2015)