David Mas Masumoto is an organic farmer, author, and activist. His book Epitaph for a Peach won the Julia Child Cookbook award and was a finalist for a James Beard award. His writing has been awarded a Commonwealth Club of California silver medal and the Independent Publisher Books bronze medal. He has been honored by Rodale Institute as an “Organic Pioneer.” He has served on the boards of the James Irvine Foundation, Public Policy Institute of California, Cal Humanities, and the National Council on the Arts with nomination by President Obama. He farms with his wife Marcy and two adult children, Nikiko and Koro. They reside in a hundred-year-old farmhouse surrounded by their eighty-acre organic peach, nectarine, apricot, and raisin farm outside of Fresno, California.
David Mas Masumoto will be celebrating the release of his new book SECRET HARVESTS: A Hidden Story of Separation and the Resilience of a Family Farm published by Red Hen Press on Wednesday, April 19, 2023 at 6:00 p.m. PST. Patricia Miye Wakida will join him in conversation. This is a virtual event taking place over Zoom.
Where are you writing to us from?
I write from my organic peach, nectarine, apricot and grape farm outside of Fresno, California.
Specifically I write in our 100 year old farmhouse basement where I can work and write surrounded by the stacks of boxes from our family history along with artifacts (and farm records and documents and even taxes and records of profits and mostly losses).
What is bringing you joy right now, personally/artistically/habitually?
Family. Our daughter just gave birth to our first grandchild. Another generation to walk these fields.
Conversations. The pandemic disrupted much of our social lives. We have forgotten how to talk with each other! And interestingly, the pandemic exposed how often we meet but often have limited exchanges due to structures that seem to discourage engagement.
Which writers, artists, and others influence your work in general, and this book, specifically?
I began exploring a different way of story telling with this book and the voice of N. Scott Momaday and his The Way to Rainy Mountain struck me. I quickly learned I wasn’t as good of writer/thinker as he and the voice in this book shifted.
I then explored the world of ableism and disabilities — and Alice Wong’s Disability Visibility opened me to another world I still have much to learn from.
The rhythms and voices of Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic seemed to be haunting me as I explored family ghosts in Secret Harvests.
What books are you reading right now and would you recommend any to others?
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
(in a wild way, our farm is a very small part of this novel about “video gaming”!)
Awe by Dacher Keltner
Buddhist Economics by Clair Brown
If you opened a bookstore, where would it be located, what would it be called, and what would your bestseller be?
Mobile bookstore, like a food truck. It could drive to where books and ideas are needed.
Books would match the seasonal rhythms and themes – with a slant also about farming and food.
For example – promote books about climate change, then head to crisis area like a recent flood and explore topics of weather extremes and climate change first hand and add depth and context that today’s “disaster” news stories so often miss. It could help stories find the voices that should be heard, like authors who spent years researching and exploring a topic and how human nature and the natural world intersect, clash and hopefully find some path forward. Then explore simple acts of courage in a crisis through everyday life like what people are eating and sharing…