After receiving her Ph.D. from Stanford in 1978, Liza took up her first teaching position at the University of Chicago. She also married Michael Dalby, a fellow professor at the time. During this period she wrote Geisha. Geisha was published in 1983 by the University of California Press.
The seed of Liza's subsequent major book, Kimono - Fashioning Culture, can be found in Geisha. Because their kimono wardrobes were of such importance to the geisha, Liza, too, developed a keen eye for the nuance of Japanese dress through their tutelage. Clothing and fashion offer an excellent window to view various aspects of society and culture, and Liza pursued this research over the years. Kimono - Fashioning Culture was published by Yale University Press in 1993.
As part of the research for this book, Liza was drawn into the descriptions of the clothing worn by the court ladies of the Heian period. The fashion of layering many robes of different colors, with poetic names for the particular combinations, was just one more aspect of the highly aestheticized lives of members of courtly society a thousand years ago—the world of the Shining Prince Genji, the fictional creation of the genius of Murasaki Shikibu.
A long-time fan of The Tale of Genji, Liza began to be obsessed by the person of Murasaki Shikibu. The notion of delving more deeply into the material culture of the eleventh century in order to flesh out her story had great appeal. Thus began a decade-long struggle to break away from the conventions of fact-based expository writing to try to create a convincing fiction. The Tale of Murasaki (Nan. A. Talese, Doubleday, 2000) was the result.
In 2004, Liza served as geisha consultant to Rob Marshall and the producers of the film of Arthur Golden's novel, Memoirs of a Geisha. Some of her experiences of this are included in her 2007 collection of essays called East Wind Melts the Ice - a Memoir Through the Seasons. This book is published in the USA by the University of California Press and in the UK by Chatto and Windus.
Dalby’s contemporary novel, Hidden Buddhas, was published by Stone Bridge Press in 2009.