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Awake with Asashoryu and Other Essays

Awake with Asashoryu and Other Essays

Elisabeth Sharp McKetta

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184-page paperback / 5" x 8" / ISBN 9781589881662 / Publication Date: 7/5/22

"The essayist Elisabeth McKetta is a wonderful storyteller who takes us generously into her life, which always seems initially off-balance, full of falls, disappointments, and reversals, and yet, in the end, joyous. Her collection is humane, amusing, touching, and very satisfying."Phillip Lopate, author of To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction

"Captivating and evocative and original."―Grace Dane Mazur, author of The Garden Party

At the heart of every essay in Elisabeth Sharp McKetta’s lively collection is the same question: How does one grow up without losing oneself? McKetta braids deceptively simple stories of her own life with the rich undercurrent of familiar childhood tales to reveal things both personal and universal and as close to the truth as possible.

Whether she is spending sleepless nights watching the sumo wrestler Asashoryu with her father, settling into a new life in a fishing hamlet in Cornwall, struggling with a beloved and ultimately untrainable corgi named Goblin, or emerging from a night in the woods rethinking who she might be, McKetta’s essays sparkle and twist round and about—funny and insightful and compelling.

"Elisabeth McKetta’s essay collection, a self-described 'moebius strip of endless minutes,' is a dreamy, sensitive account of the many different kinds of love that beset us over a lifetime: the love of daughters for fathers, of mothers for children, of dog-owners for their dogs. McKetta’s rich imagination and febrile sensibility are well-matched by her passion for fairy tales with their strange, ambiguous fusions of light and dark. A ruminative account of one woman’s journey to adulthood, Awake with Asashoryu is a both a lovely and a provocative book."—Christina Thompson, Editor, Harvard Review

"In eleven essays that are at once intricate and expansive, Elisabeth Sharp McKetta examines the work of becoming oneself through the battle between the longing for travel and the desire for home. At the heart of this remarkable memoir-in-essays is the wisdom of all fairytales: the taming of wildness that must happen in order for us to survive. The book is partly about grief for what must be lost in the process: romance or friendship that is outgrown or broken, homes that are made and abandoned. But equally important are the moments that turn domesticity and compromise into unexpected gifts: a hedgehog that appears from a hole in the wall and is restored; a burden from a mother-daughter conflict that—in another time and place—is transformed into a favorite garment. Awake with Asashoryu is a lyrical book about learning to live in kindness and beauty."―Kyoko Mori, author of The Dream of Water and Shizuko’s Daughter

“In the wise and funny essays that make up Awake with Asashoryu, Elisabeth Sharp McKetta asks vital questions about what it means to forge an adult life of one’s own.”―Lynn C. Miller, author of The Unmasking and The Day After Death

"A shimmering first essay collection from a gifted and skilled writer. Each essay in Awake with Asashoryu contains the entire world, taking the reader across a sharp-edged landscape of beauty, humor, loss, and the universal foibles of human nature, and making a case―as McKetta writes in the title essay―that ‘writing is really only a way to love the world full-time.’"―Kim Cross, author of What Stands in a Storm

"A mythical and graceful voice."―Nancy Sommers, Harvard lecturer and essayist

“Reading Elisabeth Sharp McKetta is like diving into a dark blue universe.”―Anna Ospelt, translator and author of the German books Sammelglück and Wurzelstudien


"The imaginative reworking of the mythology of death and the afterlife creates a remarkable mode for examining love and loss. McKetta uses language with an artistry that evokes sensory experience."―Booklist on She Never Told Me About the Ocean

“McKetta has offered us a complicated portrait of mothers and daughters, cupped inside one another like nesting dolls."―Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha, on She Never Told Me About the Ocean

"For some years now, I have been reading and appreciating Elisabeth Sharp McKetta's exceptional Poetry for Strangers project. With generosity, inclusiveness, and openness to the wonders of nature and the human spirit, McKetta reaches out to those strangers, encountered by chance, inviting them to participate in an art form that non-writers so often consider alien territory. She is a bridge-builder of the most original kind. And, equally admirable, from this unpredictable starting point she writes many amazingly good, complexly developed poems, imbued with her own intelligence, wit, and kind perceptiveness."―Lydia Davis, author of Can't and Won't, on Poetry for Strangers

"Elisabeth McKetta taps fairy tales, and, presto, they transform themselves into living things that reach out and tug at us, reminding us of the exquisite fragility in 'once upon a time.'"―Maria Tatar, author of The Fairest of Them All: Snow White and 21 Tales of Mothers and Daughters, on The Fairy Tales Mammals Tell

"Elisabeth McKetta grapples with the bedrock basics of being human. All of the imperatives of flesh―love, lust, the making and breaking of hearts, marriage, children, and all the rest―get full play in her writing.”―Ben Fountain, author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, on The Fairy Tales Mammals Tell

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Elisabeth Sharp McKetta grew up in Austin, Texas and holds literature degrees from Harvard, Georgetown, and the University of Texas at Austin. She teaches writing for the Harvard Extension School and the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education. She is the author of nine books including She Never Told Me About the Ocean (Paul Dry Books), Poetry for Strangers Vols. I and II, and The Fairy Tales Mammals Tell. Visit to learn more.

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