Scidmore Biography Set for March 1 Release

I’m not trained as a historian. But I’m proud of the book I’ve just written for all the scholarship it provides.


The first-ever biography of Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, it contains tons of new findings that will come as a great surprise to people who know her mostly as the woman behind Washington’s Japanese cherry trees.


The book, published by Oxford University Press, is set for launch in U.S. bookstores on March 1, 2023. If you order from Oxford’s website (at, you can use the promotion code AAFLYG6 to get a 30% discount.

Here are some other sources:

Oxford is publishing the book simultaneously in the U.K. The press’s large international reach is a boon for the broad scope of Scidmore’s fascinating story, which includes authorship of travel books on Alaska, Japan, Java, China and India, and a novel based on her reporting during the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-5.

Starting out, I certainly never expected to spend a decade on this project. But so it turned out. Though I had a lot of experience in writing and editing nonfiction, a book-length narrative was a new format for me. The genre of biography carries its own challenges in research and interpretation. Because so little was known about Scidmore, I had to track down a lot of primary sources to reconstruct her life.

Then, just when the finish line seemed to be in sight, I ran into the headwinds of Covid. Institutional shutdowns caused delays and made it tough to get the final records I needed.

Now, at last, the victory lap. So far I’ve been encouraged by the positive response of several early reviewers, as  several of whom wrote lovely blurbs for the book.

And I couldn’t be happier about the gorgeous cover. The lovely cherry tree image comes from a hand-colored photo I found at the National Archives in Washington.

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