Strong as Silk


SBN: 978-1-929878-83-3
Publishing Date: Jan. 2012

Brigit Truex has lived in the four quarters of the States since beginning her writing career. In each locale she has also established workshops to help others hone their prose and poetry as well, but her primary focus is on poetry. Her mixed ethnic background (French Canadian-Abenak/Cree and Irish) has been a theme she continues to explore in her work, approaching it from various angles. The historic Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Colony was based in the nearby community of Gold Hill, a scant 10 miles from where she currently lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills of northern California. Its universal story of “stranger in a strange land” resonated with her as the tale evolved and grew from an initial single poem into this detailed book, the result of extensive research and truthful imaginings.

The author has been published here and abroad in various literary journals and anthologies including Atlanta Review, Tule Review, Native Literatures, Yellow Medicine Review and others. She is a board member of Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers and Native Writers Circle of the Americas.


About the book:
Strong as Silk is a mix of fictionalized journal entries and accompanying poems (based on traditional Japanese forms), telling the story of the historic Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Colony. Although short-lived, (1869-1871), it is considered to be the “Japanese Plymouth Rock.”

Located in Gold Hill, California, the farmhouse has been recently renovated and placed on the register of historic sites. Plans are underway to make the surrounding 200-plus acres into a park, either state or national. The whole project has wide support, including state and federal legislators.

All of this is background to the better-known story of Okei-san, the young woman who fled her homeland with the colonists after Japan’s own civil war of the 1800s. Less than two years after her arrival, she essentially died of a broken heart and is buried on a hilltop at the farm. Indeed, she is so beloved among her people, there is a replica of her gravesite in the colonists’ hometown of Aizu Wakamatsu. While I was intrigued with her story, I also wanted to give voice to the others who arrived with such high hopes, including the founder’s wife, Jou,  as well as his trusted ally, Matsunosuke, the samurai soldier, and the colony’s carpenter, Kuni. Failures dogged the venture and the colony dissolved. Matsunosuke did remain there, working for the neighboring land-owners, until his death in the early 1900s. Recently, I met with two of his descendents. Of all those who came here, only details of Kuni’s later life are known; the fates of the others are simply rumor and speculation.

Excerpt from a review by Grady Harp, 2-12-12
STRONG AS SILK is a little miracle of a book, another gift from the craft of fine publishing of the Lummox Press. It is a sensitive combination of recalling true events in the history of California in the 19th century and recreated through the talented mind and hands of Brigit Truex…

Truex relates this touching historically accurate story by means of poetry presented visually in near calligraphic style, letters form the members of the colony, photographs of the members, articles from the San Francisco and Sacramento newspapers, dividing her book into sections Arrival, Harvest, Waiting, and Ending. In addition to the beauty of her prose and poetry Truex includes a cast of characters, biographies, explanation of Japanese customs and words and festivals, and the resources she used to compile this book.

This is an exceptional book, rich in a history about which few of us are aware. it also asks the reader to experience the sense of being a ‘stranger in a strange land’ – some that each of us at some point in our history (or our present!) have experienced. A very beautiful, touching, and memorable book.

Some samples…

Pressed between pages –
pale green flower? a jade moth?
Ah, the word took flight!

~ * ~

wrapped in rice-paper, wings furled.
Early plum blooms first.

~ * ~

At dawn’s edge, heron
steps into pond of black silk.
Water heals itself.

~ * ~

Line by line, wild geese
inscribe farewell notes on sky.
Wind fingers their nests.

~ * ~

Strung like notes on fence wire,
five midwinter crows.
See the song take flight.

~ * ~

Pleated silk blossoms —
despite others’ names for you,
you still bloom the same.

~ * ~

The moon is in awe of you,
armored silver toad.
Moths flutter their fans.
Am I to become
a toad in the pond
telling the same tales all night?


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