The Face: A Time Code

The Face, by Ruth Ozeki - 9781632060525.jpg
The Face, by Ruth Ozeki - 9781632060525.jpg

The Face: A Time Code


by Ruth Ozeki

The Face Series

“Ruth Ozeki, a Zen Buddhist priest, sets herself the task of staring at her face in a mirror for three full, uninterrupted hours; her ruminations ripple out from personal and familial memories to wise and honest meditations on families and aging, race and the body.”

—Minneapolis Star Tribune

Book Details

Paperback List Price: $9.99 • ISBN: 9781632060525 • Publication: 3/1/16 • 4-1/2" x 6”  • 176 pages • Memoir / Personal Essay / Race and Diversity / Asian American / Zen Buddhism • Territory: World • eBook ISBN: 9781632060150

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About the Book

What did your face look like before your parents were born? In The Face: A Time Code, bestselling author and Zen Buddhist priest Ruth Ozeki recounts, in moment-to-moment detail, a profound encounter with memory and the mirror. According to ancient Zen tradition, “your face before your parents were born” is your original face. Who are you? What is your true self? What is your identity before or beyond the dualistic distinctions, like father/mother and good/evil, that come to define us?

With these questions in mind, Ozeki challenges herself to spend three hours gazing into her own reflection, recording her thoughts, and noticing every possible detail. Those solitary hours open up a lifetime's worth of meditations on race, aging, family, death, the body, self doubt, and, finally, acceptance. In this lyrical short memoir, Ozeki calls on her experience of growing up in the wake of World War II as a half-Japanese, half-Caucasian American; of having a public face as an author; of studying the intricate art of the Japanese Noh mask; of being ordained as a Zen Buddhist priest; and of her own and her parents' aging, to paint a rich, intimate and utterly unique portrait of a life as told through a face.  


About The Face Series

Alternately philosophical, funny, personal, political, and poetic, the short memoirs in The Face series offer unique perspectives from some of our favorite writers. Our inspiration for the series comes from a passage by Jorge Luis Borges:

“As the years go by, [the writer] peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and individuals. A short time before he dies, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face.”

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Praise for The Face: A Time Code

"This long essay, like the experiment it describes, is strange in the best sense, plus funny, moving and deeply wise."

—Porter Shreve, San Francisco Chronicle

“Ruth Ozeki, a Zen Buddhist priest, sets herself the task of staring at her face in a mirror for three full, uninterrupted hours; her ruminations ripple out from personal and familial memories to wise and honest meditations on families and aging, race and the body.”

—Patricia Hagen, Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Face, as with the best of literary nonfiction, incorporates elements of memoir and essay, conjecture and meditation, allowing the reader to accompany each author as he or she creates a text that is utterly unique and universally affecting. Each book, on its own, is quirky, funny, sad, and profound; taken together, they have much to tell us about the culture at large, the ties that bind, and the truth — painful, hopeful, reassuring, provocative — of our place on the continuum as daughters, sons, and citizens. It’s a brilliant idea: give a bunch of good writers a prompt that is at once personal and political, and you’re bound to send readers running to the mirror, turning this way and that in an effort to reckon with who they are and who they want to be.”

—Dinah Lenney, Los Angeles Review of Books

“I couldn’t help but marvel at Ruth Ozeki’s willingness to undertake the experiment that, moment by moment, she records in her book…. It’s remarkable to see how far this river journey takes her…. In an honest and unadorned way, as Ruth Ozeki dares to stare at her own aging and unadorned face, she simultaneously dares to share with the reader her own mind’s foundering in dislike and like. And because she dares to stay with the foundering—whether what she sees is unbearable, beautiful, or somewhere in between—the mind’s essential peace, her own original face, keeps shining through.”

—Noelle Oxenhandler, Tricycle

“What stories can a face tell? This is the premise of The Face series from Restless Books, in which authors write an essay using their face as a focal point. Sound crazy? Well wait till you hear how Ruth Ozeki, Zen Buddhist priest and novelist, decided to stare at her face for three uninterrupted hours as the inspiration behind her book. Through this exercise of ‘immersive attention,’ Ozeki writes a fascinating essay-memoir on heritage, ancestors and aging.”

—Sarah Ládípọ̀ Manyika, Ozy

“Throughout Ozeki’s essay her refreshing and cultivated wisdom leads us through the mind of a compassionate, grounded human and a writer of real integrity.”

—Melody Nixon, Electric Literature

“One of the most compelling through-lines is not surprisingly the problematics of a mixed race upbringing...It is fascinating to hear about Ozeki’s life....Ozeki squarely considers the thorny politics around aging and questions of beauty. Here, Ozeki ponders the kinds of decisions that go into things like plastic surgery and an author’s publicity photo. As always, Ozeki injects humor into her prose, a characteristic of all of her earlier publications, making this reading experience undoubtedly captivating.”

—Stephen Hong Sohn, Asian American Literature Fans

“Fascinating.… Intriguing.… This is certainly a very different type of autobiography, and a welcome one at that.… Written in Ozeki's inimitably calming and charming style, there is nothing more to say except that this little book is a delight from start to finish. If you've ever read and loved any of Ozeki's works, you won't want to miss getting to know her better. I'm giving it five out of five stars.”

—Davida Charzan, The Chocolate Lady’s Book Reviews


About the Author

© Linda Solomon

© Linda Solomon

Ruth Ozeki is a novelist, filmmaker, and Zen Buddhist priest. Her first two novels, My Year of Meats (1998) and All Over Creation (2003), have been translated into 11 languages and published in 14 countries. Her most recent work, A Tale for the Time-Being (2013), won the LA Times Book Prize, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, and has been published in over thirty countries. Ruth's documentary and dramatic independent films, including Halving the Bones, have been shown on PBS, at the Sundance Film Festival, and at colleges and universities across the country. A longtime Buddhist practitioner, Ruth was ordained in 2010 and is affiliated with the Brooklyn Zen Center and the Everyday Zen Foundation. She lives in British Columbia and New York City, and is currently the Elizabeth Drew Professor of Creative Writing at Smith College.