Questions from a Reader

I received this email recently and thought other readers of The Friendship Doll might be interested in my answers to Jess’ questions: 

Dear Kirby: 
I’m interested to hear more about your research for The Friendship Doll. It’s fascinating to hear about sources. I think sometimes doing research for books is like being a word archeologist… you never know what you’ll find buried in newspapers and journals.
What kind of sources did you seek out after you found the first photograph of the girl with the Japanese doll to find out more about her? And how did you discover the one doll that wasn’t missing?  

Dear Jess: I love that idea of being a word archeologist. . . but I think I’m more of a mucker-arounder. 😉  Since I started the research for this book so long ago, I can’t recall when I learned that the dolls were called “Friendship Dolls,” but once I did, that gave me focus. I found Bill Gordon’s site and managed to acquire the book Dr. Gulick had written (gotta love Alibris!). I use eBay for maps and photos, diaries and letters and my library allows me on-line access to the historical New York Times archive which is fabulous! I visited museums and did just about anything else I could do to track down information, including interviewing Michiko Takaoka, who is a leading expert on the dolls (if not THE leading expert), when she was director of a Japanese language school across the state from me in Spokane, Washington. I also used the Library of Congress site — they have a great resource there called American Memory.

I leave no stone unturned! But it’s not a job for wimps. After spending a day reading microfiche, I generally have a headache and my neck and back complain big time. None of those machines are ergonomically correct. It’s a problem, truly. So I love it when I can get newspapers on-line. And I can’t tell you the number of hours I spend looking for things I never find. So prepare for a bit of frustration, should you choose this path.

When I was a kid, I played Man From UNCLE with my neighborhood buddies and dreamed of being a spy or detective (preferably one like Honey West, who had a pet ocelot). I feel like my childhood dreams have come true through my work as a writer of historical fiction — but without the danger.

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