Book Clubs

Do you have a book club? Margaret can appear at your club in person, if you’re local; or via Skype/phone.

Please email nategrayson88 at with your proposed date/time.

Margaret at the Japanese Friendship Garden for the Osher Institute/Adventures by the Book (photo Susan McBeth, @adventuresbythebook)

Skype/Phone Instructions

Skype name: margaret.dilloway

  • After confirming the time/date, add margaret.dilloway as a contact. A half hour into your book club usually works well, giving your club time to get settled.
  • Use the book club reading guide questions or just make up your own. This is like an “Ask Me Anything” event! Don’t be shy.
  • At the appointed time, call using the Video button



  • Plan to have Margaret arrive about 15-30 minutes after your start time to give your club the opportunity to get settled.
  • You can use prepared book club questions or simply ask your own. This is an opportunity to have a conversation with the author.
  • Please let Margaret know if your club would like to purchase books from her; she can bring extra copies. She will also autograph books.


School Visits

We are now scheduling school visits for MOMOTARO: XANDER AND THE LOST ISLAND OF MONSTERS.

Check out the different options. If your school cannot afford the fee, please ask anyway. We do our best to accommodate schools of all budgets.

As an experienced teacher, Margaret will lead a dynamic and fun workshop and presentation for mid-to-upper elementary, middle school, and high school students.





Reading Guides


The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns Reading Group Guide

ROSES Reading Group Guide

1. Consider the title of the book – what multiple meanings might it convey?

2. In the early chapters, as we’re getting to know Gal as a character, what is your opinion of her? Does her struggle with kidney disease affect your perception of her character?

3. Gal often views the world in black and white, and is inclined to stick to rules in the name of order and fairness. But at times, other adults in the story question or undermine her decisions, believing that individual circumstances merit a special response. Whom did you agree with during these conflicts? Do you see rules more as guidelines that should be flexible, or do exceptions make rules meaningless?

4. The book highlights the complex and fraught system of organ donation, where in the face of a limited supply of organs, potential recipients must be ranked according to criteria that may not always seem fair . . . and this ranking can mean the difference between life and death. Do you agree with Gal’s implication that she’s more deserving of a kidney than Mark? What criteria would you take into account if you were doing the ranking?

5. Gal’s interactions with Dr. Blankenship show the sometimes difficult relationship between doctors and patients. What factors might account for such conflicts? What could Gal and Dr. Blankenship have done better to resolve these issues?

6. Riley comes to live with Gal at a fragile time, during her teenage years when she’s still trying to identify interests, solidify skills, and find her passions. How does living with Gal help her grow in these respects? Which other adults and peers also influence her development?

7. Irresponsible, flaky Becky is an interesting foil to Gal, who is rigidly consistent in both her outlook and actions. Did your opinion of Becky change over the course of the novel? Do you sympathize at all with the struggles she faces, and the choices she makes?

8. As we learn in the book, rose breeding and cultivation is both a competitive endeavor that can lead to financial gain, and a collegial undertaking in which fellow hobbyists share tips and information for mutual benefit. How do Gal and the other breeders handle the fine line between sharing and competing? Do you think Gal’s anger toward Byron was justified?

9. In what ways does Gal transform by the end of the story, as a teacher, sister, friend, and stand-in parent?

How to Be an American Housewife Reading Group Guide

1. How to Be an American Housewife is partially based on the author and her mother’s personal experiences. As a reader, do you find it more interesting when you know that there is a nonfiction element to the story?

2. Did you sympathize with Shoko’s decision not to marry Ronin? Do you think she could have—or should have—accepted his proposal?

3. Shoko marries Charlie in order to leave Japan and live a more comfortable life in America. She thinks Charlie will make a good husband, but she doesn’t yet love him. Does she turn out to be wrong, or right? Would she have been better off staying in Japan, and marrying a Japanese man?

4. A recurrent theme in the novel is how mothers and daughters communicate (for better and worse). In what ways did you feel that the difficulties between Shoko and Sue were universal to mothers and daughters, and in what ways were they cultural? How is this borne out in Sue’s relationship with Helena?

5. Shoko and Sue represent very different models and standards of motherhood, caretaking, and housekeeping. What do you consider their strengths and weaknesses, and what would you consider the most essential qualities?

6. The chapters are introduced with snippets from Shoko’s “How to Be an American Housewife” guidebook. How did you respond to that book’s advice? Did it surprise you to learn that the author’s mother had a very similar book, and that many women like Shoko were expected to follow its advice?

7. Shoko’s guidebook advises women to raise their sons differently from their daughters. Do you think boys and girls are raised differently in all cultures, including your own, and what impact does this have on all of us?

8. Prejudice and stereotypes are prevalent themes in the novel. The “How to Be an American Housewife” guidebook that Shoko is given by Charlie is largely based on stereotypes of Japanese and American cultures. It seems that all the characters feel or experience prejudice to some degree or another. Discuss the various forms of prejudice and stereotype in the novel, and their impact on the characters. Have you experienced similar sorts of prejudice in your own life?

9. The author took a risk by having two different narrators, both of whom have strengths and flaws. Are you more drawn to Sue or to Shoko? Do you think the story would have been stronger or weaker with one narrator?

10. Sue’s life and her sense of herself and her options are quite narrow and confined at the beginning of the novel. Her world expands dramatically by the novel’s end. How do the outer circumstances of Sue’s life change how she views herself on the inside? Do you think it’s significant that she finds herself in Japan?

Check out the inspiration book, THE AMERICAN WAY OF HOUSEKEEPING.

Here I discuss my novel’s ending:

33 thoughts on “For Book Clubs and Schools

  1. Dear ma’am,
    I am in mourning, now, cuz I just completed one of the best novels that I have read in my fifty years. I want to place it under glass, and display it to the universe. I do not comment on a novel often. You need to continue to write and you will be a novelist that will stand out for all time. I viewed your novel on my Barnes and Noble app, via I-phone, and was just intrigued with the cover. I bought it, at full price and could not put it down. I sent pieces of it to my Italian mother, via text. I am a huge fan if memoirs of a geisha, but this was different. Go out and celebrate! Take your family, and eat, drink, and be happy! Too bad, that this book is hidden, I had to go to three places to find it. Thank-you, and thanks to your mother, god rest het soul, for writing the book of this decade.

  2. My family and I went to Japan for the first time this past summer – and we loved it – the places/history, the culture, the people, the food. So, I read several books about Japan upon our return.

    I was pleasantly surprised to learn about your book and I will be looking for it. Then – I was even prouder to learn that you also went to Scripps!!! I can’t wait to read your book, especially when it deals with the kind of complicated relationship as yours does. Will you be coming out to the Tea on 10/17 at 3 pm – for the book exchange to celebrate our founder’s birthday?

    Anyway – congratulations on your achievement and I look forward to reading your book!

    Take care,
    Margie Tupper, Scripps ’86

  3. This was a wonderful book, have already recommended it to family and friends. Keep me posted about your next book. Can no wait. Laur

  4. Your book was chosen for our book club to review in January because it looked good (love the cover). I just finished it and I have to say – I loved it! Thank you for writing a clean, happy, interesting book! I’m excited to recommend it.

    P.S. Being a Mormon myself, I was wondering why you chose this religion for Charlie?

  5. Just stayed up until 1:30 am to finish your book (well worth being overtired with the kids in the am!). It was a great story, and I hope to read more from you, in the future. 🙂

  6. Hi Margaret,

    I too am a Margaret. There aren’t that many of us 😉

    As a “konketsu” mixed-race, half Japanese, half Greek daughter of an American GI Marine and Japanese mom … finding this book that I can truly identify with has been a joy! Although my mom is four years younger than the character Shoko, my mom’s stories mirror hers in so many ways. The character of Sue or Suiko lives her youth, in many respects, as I did mine.

    I too have a brother and his name is Michael (Mike) … I don’t know about you … but I never understood why my parents named their kids Margaret and Michael, when mom has such difficulty pronouncing “L” and “R”. LOL!

    I have highlighted so many sections of your book, it might as well have been printed on yellow paper. My mom was also “strafed” by the American planes during the war. She lived on sweet potatoes. Ohhhhh soooo many stories of her life came flooding back to me by reading your book.

    Thank you for sharing your story and at the same time, you have helped share my story.

  7. Hi Margaret,

    I just finished your book, which I bought coming back from my honeymoon in Taiwan. My husband is from there and I am Italian. We both lived in US (I moved two years ago from Rome). I loved your book and although I am not Japanese and I am living in US in 2011 I feel a feeling of familiarity with the struggles of your characters. I also wonder which kind of mother I will be when I have children. Adapting to a new country is liberating, hard and many other things. Your book communicates all these mixed feelings very well.


  8. I too am a half-Japanese, all-American woman, and as such I’ve never had the experience before of reading about characters so much like myself so thank you so much for your honest and acute portrayal of what it’s like. It’s absolutely uncanny how many details you included about the relationship between Shoko-san and Sue I could relate to on an almost first-hand basis. I thought it was only me who owned this unique experience, but always wondered if other half-Japanese girls went through the same. Maybe we should start a support group! Anyway, aside from thanking you for such an enjoyable and relateable work, the main reason I came to your website was to see if your book had been translated into Japanese. If it has, I would love to buy a copy for my mother. You’ve somehow said things that I couldn’t, and I know she’d understand it better if she could read it in her mother tongue. Thanks again! Monica Thomas

    1. Thanks! I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one!
      It is not in Japanese currently, unfortunately. Keep checking back! I’ll post it on the front page or something if it ever sells to Japan.

  9. Thanks again for sharing your book, and for the quick reply! I hope your publisher will consider the potential for selling a Japanese or bi-lingual version of your book here in the States as well as abroad. There are many Japanese post-war brides like my mom whose stories are very similar to Shoko’s. My mom learned just enough English to pass the citizenship test and that’s as far as she got with it, which is how it’s been with many of her friends who came her from Japan. Maybe I’ll get her the audio CD and see how that goes! All the best to you, it’s great to see you’re enjoying such success for such an endearing work! Monica Thomas

  10. Just finished your book – How to Be an American Housewife. I read it in two days! I love the mother daughter relationship. I am going to buy my 15 YO daughter a copy so she can read it also, and we can discuss it. (We read books together). I LOVE the characters. Please tell me you are going to have a part two??? I want to see how Shoko feels when she returns to Japan. I would also like for Mike go to Japan to find his (birth) father’s family. Also, what did Mike mean when he said told Shoko “it explained alot” when he learned that Charlie was not his birth father??? How did you come up with the Mormon angle?

  11. I loved the dynamics of the characters in this book. The non-fictional element just enhanced this story even more! I am so glad I recommended this book for my bookclub because it deals with relationships, hardship, culture, and the power of a family’s love. I cannot wait to discuss this book!

  12. First, I loved the book. However, I was surprised at Sue’s response when
    Shoko visited her at work. Was Sue embarrassed for her co-workers to meet
    her mother? I spoke to a friend whose mother is a foreigner about this. She
    said that she had a lot of guilt because she intentionally kept her mother away from her friends. Was that something you tried to infer?

  13. I couldn’t put the book down and read it in two days! I was born in Tokyo, Japan and came to US with my parents when I was 3. I feel we have alot in common! Most Asian and Caucasian think I look half caucasian which is interesting. My parents are from Kumamoto City, Japan. Maybe our relatives know each other! Wouldn’t that be neat! I have not met anyone in the midwest from Kumamoto. My grandfather, Kihara, was a doctor and his son who is a doctor owns Kihara Hospital.
    Thank you for writing this book. My mother died six yrs, ago, and this story helps me understand my parents even more. I wept when your parents couldn’t help you with your Science Fair Project. I went through similar experiences. How great to know I am not alone!! You are a gifted writer and please write more!!!

  14. I just finished your book this evening. I haven’t had a book that I couldn’t put down in a long time! I started last night, finished it tonight. I am now sad because I have nothing else to read…. My heart belongs to San Diego. Where exactly did you place Shoko and Charlies house? I thought she mentioned the town but it didn’t sound familiar. My mom grew up in Casa De Oro (Spring Valley) And my granparents still live on an acre there. They have a huge Jacaranda tree, that I have loved since my childhood. I grew up in Vista

      1. Your novel reminded me soooo much of my mom and me! My mom’s side of the falimy, the Otani falimy, are Hiroshima atomic bomb survivors. My dad was a Marine Corp musician in Iwakuni and my mom was the head waitress on base during the ’50s. That’s where they met. She worked her day job on base and then worked nights at a gift shop, selling souveniers to GIs to pay for my youngest uncle’s university expenses. We lived off base in the Japanese community until ’71 when we moved here to the US. I didn’t learn to speak English until we moved here. I’ve never spoken English to my mother, who passed on in ’07.She and her younger sister had breast cancer within a couple of years of each other around ’90. We attributed the illnesses to after-effects of the atomic bomb since there was no history of cancer in the falimy other than the oldest sister who died a few years after the bombing. She had been back to Japan twice and was hoping to go back one more time before she died. We brought Japan to her hospice room by flying my youngest uncle and his wife to visit for a few days. The last couple of weeks of her life were just lovely, her room full of Japanese knick-knacks, Japanese music playing on the stereo and hours of lively conversations in Japanese. We were able to get my mom on the phone with the last sister still alive, whom she had not spoken to in almost 20 years. How beautiful it was to see my mom, initially so resistant to take the phone from my hand, break down with tears of joy when her sister spoke to her.I’ve always thought she was unlike other Japanese women from her generation. She was such a spitfire, so unlike the stereotipical Japanese housewife. What a shock it was to read so much of her in your book! I mean, cripes! At first, I couldn’t get started. I’d pick up the book, radomly choose a page to skim, get triggered, then put the book down because I was too freaked out to read it. I read Part Two first. Then I was able to read Part One without getting triggered. How wonderful that you were able to record your mother’s stories. My mom, Hisako, told many stories to my brother and me while we were growing up and continued to tell them until her last days. I hope to write a play based on her stories someday, how the bomb blew her forward into her life adventures.Are you connected to any group for Half Japanese people? There must be so many of us down there in Southern CA. I’m in the Eastern Oregon desert, where there are more cattle than people. I’m the only non-white person I’ll see for days at a time if I don’t go to the local Mexican restaurant. I have a couple of friends I met on line who are haafu. I’ll be mailing them copies of your book this week. I’m sure they’ll be able to relate like I did. Well, for me, it did more than allow me to relate. Your novel was theraputic, Margaret.I’m so very grateful for your book and your work. Domo arigato gozaimashita. Good luck with your second novel. Gambatte ne!Jackie Sario

  15. Dear Margaret,

    Your book was recommended by a lady in my Book Club. It was a wonderful book to read. I especially loved the details about Japanese culture. The chapter where Shoko and Taro were reunited made me cry. Since I have two sisters and a brother I can’t inagine not seeing them for many years. It made my heart hurt. Thank you for the forgiveness shown in the novel. P;ease keep writing. I am looking forward to your next novel which I understand will be released this summer.

    –Claudia in Austin, Texas

  16. Hi Margaret,

    Just finished your book and fell completely in love with it! I have limited connection in terms of similarity of experience, but you’ve written the story so well, it transcends mirrored experience.

    I wanted to tell you one aspect though, that I loved, because it rang true for me. My mother immigrated from Latvia and Germany to Canada as a young teen. She too lived through WWII and bears the scars. And the similarity I see between her and Shoko makes me think it’s less an ethic trait, than a life taught trait. That’s in the “tokidoki” attitude. It must be that having lived through hard events such as people did then, gives them a certain suck-it-up-buttercup, no one promised anyone a rose garden condition of mind! I’ve never met anyone as content and stoic in the face of life’s curveballs, as my mother. She’s a great example of looking forward, appreciating the good in one’s history, but not spending a moment of regret for the might-have-beens. I loved this side of Shoko’s character, and I think it must make life a bit easier to navigate!

    Looking forward to your next novel this year!!


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