A Stranger’s Journey
Race, Identity, and Narrative Craft in Writing

David Mura

How questions of identity occupy a central place in contemporary memoir


"To take honest stock of ourselves and to place our experience within the larger world, this is the task of the ideal writer, work that is made harder in a literary and political climate created to validate the experiences of certain numbers at the expense of excluding and denying even the existence of others of us. David Mura faces this challenge head-on and gives us a book that is essential reading for  anyone who considers the writer's art a serious, and sacred, opportunity to transform the world. A Stranger's Journey speaks to writers and teachers willing to embrace the task of complicating our idealized version of reality and who want to push themselves, and others, to face ‘the blemishes and blasphemies’ of our lives with clarity and passion. Mura takes his place among an illustrious group of spirit guides, from Baldwin to Danticat, from Naipaul to Diaz, in showing us exactly how to construct the requisite tools in order to dismantle the master's house."
—Ru Freeman, author of On Sal Mal Lane

"Upon finishing this book, I think that we will no longer be strangers. We will no longer feel that we are on our journey alone. This book is the intersection where our paths meet, where we can forge bonds that transcend the racial divide. Maybe from here on out, we can accompany each other on our journeys as friends and fellow artists, but most importantly, as fellow humans."
—Reyna Grande, author of The Distance Between Us

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Long recognized as a master teacher at writing programs like VONA, the Loft, and the Stonecoast MFA, with A Stranger’s Journey, David Mura has written a book on creative writing that addresses our increasingly diverse American literature. Mura argues for a more inclusive and expansive definition of craft, particularly in relationship to race, even as he elucidates timeless rules of narrative construction in fiction and memoir. His essays offer technique-focused readings of writers such as James Baldwin, ZZ Packer, Maxine Hong Kingston, Mary Karr, and Garrett Hongo, while making compelling connections to Mura’s own life and work as a Japanese American writer.

In A Stranger’s Journey, Mura poses two central questions. The first involves identity: How is writing an exploration of who one is and one’s place in the world? Mura examines how the myriad identities in our changing contemporary canon have led to new challenges regarding both craft and pedagogy. Here, like Toni Morrison’s Playing in the Dark or Jeff Chang’s Who We Be, A Stranger’s Journey breaks new ground in our understanding of the relationship between the issues of race, literature, and culture.

The book’s second central question involves structure: How does one tell a story? Mura provides clear, insightful narrative tools that any writer may use, taking in techniques from fiction, screenplays, playwriting, and myth. Through this process, Mura candidly explores the newly evolved aesthetic principles of memoir and how questions of identity occupy a central place in contemporary memoir.

Page count: 344 pp.
Trim size: 6 x 9


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List price: $29.95

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David Mura is a memoirist, novelist, poet, and literary critic. He has written the novel Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire and two memoirs: Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Where the Body Meets Memory: An Odyssey of Race, Sexuality, and Identity.