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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

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,3971365,428 (3.78)205
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. 40
    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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» See also 205 mentions

English (120)  French (4)  German (4)  Italian (3)  Dutch (2)  Piratical (1)  Norwegian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (136)
Showing 1-5 of 120 (next | show all)
33. The Buddha in the Attic (Audio) by Julie Otsuka, read by Samantha Quan and Carrington MacDuffie (2011, 3:52, ~110 pages in paperback, listened May 26-29)
Rating: 3 stars

A National Book Award and IMPAC Dublin award finalist, this short book, told in a collective we, covers the experience of Japanese mail-order brides. They immigrated to California by boat to meet their various generally disappointing husbands and live generally unexpectedly difficult lives as agricultural laborers until they were all sent to concentration camps during WWII.

I had just given up on several audiobooks when I tried this one, really as a backup, and found myself instantly caught up it. I kept on enjoying it for awhile. I was caught up by their expectations and really a bit stunned by what they found. It's almost unimaginable, the difference. Unfortunately it keeps going and going and going. By the end I was thankful it was so short. So a mixed experience for me. ( )
  dchaikin | Jun 27, 2015 |
I really enjoyed this different style of writing - no "characters" as such gives the impression (quite correctly) that these experiences were wide spread, and while the results and effects were different for many people, there is a common thread. ( )
  FionaWh | Jun 22, 2015 |
June 14
Finished A Budda in the Attic today.
a summary from the reading guide is provided below
In her magnificent new novel, which can be viewed as a prequel to her first novel, Otsuka spins the clock to just after the turn of the century, as a group of young women from Japan are brought to San Francisco as mail- order brides. In eight haunting, incantatory sections, The Buddha in the Attic traces their new lives: from their arduous voyage by boat, where the girls trade photos of their husbands- to- be and imagine uncertain futures in an unknown land; to their arrival in San Francisco, and their tremulous first nights with their new husbands; to their backbreaking toil as migrant workers in the fields and in the homes of white women; their struggle to learn a new language and a new culture; their experiences in childbirth and raising children who reject their heritage; and finally, the arrival of war, and the agonizing prospect of their internment.
This was a different sort of novel to read, written in 1st person plural. Each chapter depicts a time in the lives of the mail -order brides, first the boat ride, then the first night with their new husband and eventually being seen as traitors and sent to relocation camps. I would have to say that it was a good thing that the book was so brief because once you get the style, it loses something of a narrative by not having any characters to follow. I can assume from the acknowledgement that there was a good amount of research put into the book, so each sentence is like a separate image or a line of poetry and as a whole you get to experience what they endured. The Japanese people depicted in this account come off as incredibly noble and trusting that things will work out. Some sample lines are listed below:

We forgot about Buddha. We forgot about God. We developed a coldness inside us that still has not thawed. I fear my soul has died. We stopped writing home to our mothers. We lost weight and grew thin. We stopped bleeding. We stopped dreaming. We stopped wanting. We simply worked, that was all.

The Nishimotos of San Carlos left out bowls of fresh orchids from their nursery on their kitchen table for whoever was moving in next.

Haruko left a tiny laughing brass Buddha up high, in a corner of the attic, where he is still laughing to this day. ( )
  novelcommentary | Jun 13, 2015 |
This was a book club pick, and an interesting choice. It was narrated by the collective "we" which I've never seen before, but was very effective, I think, for the subject matter. It's about Japanese brides being bought and brought to America and their experiences. It ends during WWII and the Japanese being relocated to concentration camps who knows where in the US. I just finished another book called The Auschwitz Escape, and I find it ironic that we had camps like this in the US, at the same time the Nazis did in Europe. True, we weren't exterminating the Japanese, but what we did was still shameful. I liked the book and liked the author's writing style. I recommend this book. ( )
  sandra.k.heinzman | Apr 2, 2015 |
This was a book club pick, and an interesting choice. It was narrated by the collective "we" which I've never seen before, but was very effective, I think, for the subject matter. It's about Japanese brides being bought and brought to America and their experiences. It ends during WWII and the Japanese being relocated to concentration camps who knows where in the US. I just finished another book called The Auschwitz Escape, and I find it ironic that we had camps like this in the US, at the same time the Nazis did in Europe. True, we weren't exterminating the Japanese, but what we did was still shameful. I liked the book and liked the author's writing style. I recommend this book. ( )
  sandra.k.heinzman | Apr 2, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 120 (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 editionsconfirmed
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:51:26 -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)

» see all 5 descriptions

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