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The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
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The Buddha in the Attic (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Julie Otsuka

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1,6791624,253 (3.77)216
Member:nehbooks
Title:The Buddha in the Attic
Authors:Julie Otsuka
Info:Anchor (2012), Paperback, 144 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Japan, immigration, internment, WWll, fiction

Work details

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka (2011)

  1. 50
    Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (Anonymous user, SqueakyChu)
    Anonymous user: A sweet love story but an eye-opener about Japanese and Chinese Americans at the time of Pearl Harbor attack
  2. 00
    The Lost Daughter of Happiness by Geling Yan (Limelite)
    Limelite: Not about the Japanese immigration experience, but set in San Francisco in the late 19th C., this novel evokes Chinatown and the impact Chinese and Americans had on each other depicted in a tightly personal experience. Readers will find common themes -- racism, struggle, isloation -- as in Otsuka's novella.… (more)
  3. 00
    Ru by Kim Thúy (raidergirl3)
    raidergirl3: nonlinear short chapters, immigrant experience
  4. 00
    Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston (speedy74)
    speedy74: This book also provides information regarding the Japanese internment.
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English (145)  French (4)  German (4)  Italian (3)  Dutch (2)  Piratical (1)  Norwegian (1)  Spanish (1)  Swedish (1)  All (162)
Showing 1-5 of 145 (next | show all)
Enjoyed this a good deal. Pretty profoundly sad throughout, however. Often books like this have something to hold onto, some human spirit to cling to. Oust was keeping it real, though: shipped off to America, scared, arrive and get treated like crap, scared and lonely, have kids, many of them die, those who don't reject you and are embarrassed by you, get put in internment camps, everybody forgets about you. Not happy. Read in hotel while on a business trip in Dallas. ( )
  BooksForDinner | Mar 11, 2017 |
Short but so powerful

I thought this book was deeply moving and the pluralized first person narrative made this book something unique. Japanese, mail-order brides have come to America married to men they have written to and have received pictures. They develop lives and while the book is in almost a chorus the reader still gets to know the individual and perhaps has an even better connection.

For those who say they won't read a short story or novella because a story can't be told well enough which means the reader won't have the same depth of feeling I challenge them to read this story. And I have to say (and I hate politics in reviews so I have to apologize) this was such a timely read in today's political climate. ( )
  mmoj | Mar 2, 2017 |
It’s hard to explain the plot of this book; it has none and yet, it’s a story unlike any other. Told in First Person Plural, the book is divided into eight chapters: Come, Japanese / First Night / Whites / Babies / The Children / Traitors / Last Day / A Disappearance. Each chapter covers a particular part of life, a gathering of many experiences, told by the voices of many women. First, the women came over from Japan as picture brides, crowded into great steam liners. From there, we follow them through the first night of their marriage, their life working in America, birthing babies and the people these babies would grow into. Then, Pearl Harbor, and the internment of the Japanese. There is more pain then joy in these chapters, these voices, these stories. This is not a pleasant book. There is too much reality to be so. There is joy, but it is laced with suffering, with resignation, with hardship and sacrifice. Otsuka has given a voice to people whose story would be lost otherwise. Worth readying, particularly in today’s volatile social and political climate. The lives of these women have much to share and much to teach. ( )
  empress8411 | Feb 10, 2017 |
The format of the storytelling in this book is unique and I loved that about the book. And oh the details! Rich. The writing is spare in a manner that allows for more detail without making a much larger book.

The story opens with a group of Japanese women on a ship bound for America, promised to new husbands who are said to be moneyed with great jobs and nice homes. What they arrive to find is far different. And so begins the stories of their lives, encapsulated in snippets that flow so easily along the reader might be tempted to gloss over the minutia. Every sentence tells a story, and in some places, fragments of sentences do so.

How did their lives go? What about their children? And what about their gentle Japanese culture? Their work ethic shines throughout, alongside their innocence and wisdom. When they were swept away to interment camps by the US Government, their communities missed them because they had become good citizens, neighbors, and business people.

Read this not-so-shining chapter in American history and enjoy the journey. ( )
  Rascalstar | Jan 21, 2017 |
I hadn't realized that it was the same generation of women who were picture brides as who interned. What lives, what history.

This was a hard book emotionally, and a bit experimentally written (the lack of individuality is, perhaps, a comment on racism?), but I got a lot out of historical and emotional context out of it, which I appreciate, not having known much about this history. ( )
  pammab | Dec 18, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 145 (next | show all)
This passage may give a clue as to how Julie Otsuka's book is to be read. She calls it a novel. It is closely and carefully based on factual history/ies. There are novelistically vivid faces, scenes, glimpses, voices, each for a moment only, so you cannot linger anywhere or with anyone. Information is given, a good deal of it, in the most gracefully invisible manner; and history is told. Yet the book has neither a novel's immediacy of individual experience, nor the broad overview of history. The tone is often incantatory, and though the language is direct, unconvoluted, almost without metaphor, its true and very unusual merit lies, I think, in that indefinable quality we call poetry.....I am sorry that after it, in the last chapter, she suddenly changes her narrative mode and ceases to follow her group of women. The point of view changes radically and "we" suddenly are the whites: "The Japanese have disappeared from our town."
 
Narrated in the first-person plural, The Buddha in the Attic is a slight, but powerfully moving piece of prose. It tells the story of a group of Japanese mail-order brides, from their journey to America, through marriage, work, childbirth and motherhood, until they and their entire communities are rounded up at the beginning of the war....Some might find the plurality of voice troubling, suggesting that it does little to restore individual identities to those whom history has forgotten, but I would argue the opposite. A host of individual characters and experiences crystallise as families and communities take root
 
But the book’s plural voice is particularly effective at capturing their long, giddy conversations on the ship as they wonder if American men really grow hair on their chests, put ­pianos in their front parlors and dance “cheek to cheek all night long” with their lucky wives....But no story in the conventional sense ever develops, and no individuals emerge for more than a paragraph....Had we known them as full individuals — as real and diverse and distinct — we couldn’t have whisked them away to concentration camps in the desert. A great novel should shatter our preconceptions, not just lacquer them with sorrow.
 

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Julie Otsukaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Scholtz, KatjaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
There be of them, that have left a name behind them, that their praises might be reported. And some there be, which have no memorial; who are perished, as though they had never been; and are become as though they had never been born; and their children after them.

—ECCLESIASTICUS 44:8-9
Barn's burnt down—
now
I can see the moon.

—MASAHIDE
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For Andy
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On the boat we were mostly virgins.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307700003, Hardcover)

Finalist for the 2011 National Book Award


Julie Otsuka’s long awaited follow-up to When the Emperor Was Divine (“To watch Emperor catching on with teachers and students in vast numbers is to grasp what must have happened at the outset for novels like Lord of the Flies and To Kill a Mockingbird” —The New York Times) is a tour de force of economy and precision, a novel that tells the story of a group of young women brought over from Japan to San Francisco as ‘picture brides’ nearly a century ago.

In eight incantatory sections, The Buddha in the Attic traces their extraordinary lives, from their arduous journey by boat, where they exchange photographs of their husbands, imagining uncertain futures in an unknown land; to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new wives; to their backbreaking work picking fruit in the fields and scrubbing the floors of white women; to their struggles to master a new language and a new culture; to their experiences in childbirth, and then as mothers, raising children who will ultimately reject their heritage and their history; to the deracinating arrival of war.

In language that has the force and the fury of poetry, Julie Otsuka has written a singularly spellbinding novel about the American dream. 

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:45 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Presents the stories of six Japanese mail-order brides whose new lives in early twentieth-century San Francisco are marked by backbreaking migrant work, cultural struggles, children who reject their heritage, and the prospect of wartime internment.

(summary from another edition)

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