Some people go to Japan seeking enlightenment, some the beauty of traditional disciplines. In Bamboo Secrets, Patricia Dove Miller chronicles her experience of these quests as they become entangled in the Japanese legal bureaucracy as a result of a drug bust. Unable to leave Japan, she sees her aesthetic dream turn into a nightmare, which she endures by engaging even more deeply with Japanese culture. This is a painfully honest and harrowing tale of personal and cultural awakening.
— Liza Dalby, anthropologist and author of Geisha, Kimono, The Tale of Murasaki, and Hidden Buddhas
Patricia Dove Miller writes with a lyrical pen, an open heart, and a deep connection to the natural world. Bamboo Secrets interlaces the beauty of Japanese art, music, and ceremony with the story of a personal journey through the shadows that can disrupt a woman’s life and threaten her marriage.
— Judy Reeves, author of Wild Women, Wild Voices and A Writer’s Book of Days
When I read Bamboo Secrets, I feel as if Patricia Dove Miller were born Japanese in a past life, to be able to recognize and appreciate so many aspects of Japanese culture. And yet, she also has to be an outsider to notice them. For me, her many evocative scenes bring back fond memories of growing up in Japan, when I smelled, saw, and felt these sensations. The scent of wet wool, on the long bus ride to her flute lesson, as she wipes off the foggy window, searching for the correct street signs; the eager innocence of the young women in the ikebana class; her shakuhachi sensei instructing her to use her heart as she listens and plays, instead of taking notes. Miller describes the healing power of art as she journeys full circle from her childhood, when her teacher tears up her drawings, to later in Japan when she discovers her own art forms. I recommend this memoir to anyone who wants to learn about Japanese culture and about finding one’s own true heart.
— Takayo Miyazaki Harriman
Bamboo Secrets is a gripping, moving tale of loss, love, and tremendous human resilience. Miller’s prose is honest and insightful and powerful.
— Nina Schuyler, author of the award-winning novel The Translator
Patricia Dove Miller has woven for us a tapestry as shaded with nuance as the Japanese culture itself. Propelled by bright moments of transcendence lyrically rendered, a gut-punching reversal of fortune, and a battle of wits with Kafkaesque bureaucracy, Bamboo Secrets draws us through a surprising saga that is, ultimately, as spiritually enriching as it is devastating. Miller tells an important tale, and does so masterfully.
— Christopher Noël, author of In the Unlikely Event of a Water Landing: A Geography of Grief
Patricia Dove Miller’s Bamboo Secrets is a lovely series of nested boxes. You open the first lacquered square to find the story of a vastly unfortunate choice; you open that to journey with an expat through Japan; the next ones offer an abiding affection for that culture, with meditations on temples, pottery, futons, family, and the joys of flower arranging. Shimmering around the whole is how a marriage builds and lasts through adversity, and through it slides the haunting notes of the shakuhachi flute.
— Sands Hall, author of Catching Heaven and Tools of the Writer’s Craft
Bamboo Secrets precisely captures a common contradiction for foreigners in Japan: the traditional arts instill awe and insight, while the arcane bureaucracy and social conventions stymie and frustrate. Patricia Dove Miller accompanies her husband to Japan, thinking she will immerse herself in the noble, meditative traditions of the shakuhachi and ikebana. Instead, she suddenly finds herself thrust into a murky legal nightmare when her husband is detained on drug charges. Most expats in such a situation turn bitter and direct their negativity toward Japan. Not so for Miller, who, as a middle-aged artist struggling with career and marriage, transforms this excruciating experience into a path for personal growth. In her own words, she learns “to distinguish between the public legal face of Japan and the private artistic face.” One she resents, the other she loves, but both form the framework for her salvation.
— Christopher Yohmei Blasdel, shakuhachi performer and teacher; Artistic Director, International House of Japan, 1987–2013 (U.S.–Japan Creative Artists Program); author of The Shakuhachi: A Manual for Learning and The Single Tone: A Personal Journey into Shakuhachi Music