Tina Suzuki has just begun her first year of graduate study. Born and raised in San Francisco by her Japanese immigrant mother, Tina knows nothing about the rest of her family, and very little about her cultural heritage. But when her boyfriend's Japanese calligraphy teacher suffers a stroke, loses his ability to communicate, but continues to create magnificent calligraphic art, Tina knows she has stumbled across an ideal research subject. Getting people to cooperate with her research is an entirely different matter. The blank personal history presented by her mother is in fact a tightly wound scroll full of scandalous secrets. Tina's studies lead to revelations about her own family - secrets she would never have expected. Juxtaposed with Tina's story is that of the stricken calligraphy teacher as a young man in Kyoto, and the history of the ancient inkstone he carries with him.