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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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1,3591315,652 (3.78)196
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)

Recently added bySheila1957, serenab4, Ginnywoolf, Fliss88, KamGeb, thelimgirl, private library, tayitude, ginger.hewitt
  1. 40
    Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (Anonymous user)
    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 196 mentions

English (114)  French (4)  German (4)  Italian (3)  Dutch (2)  Piratical (1)  Norwegian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (130)
Showing 1-5 of 114 (next | show all)
I loved this book, from the first page to the end, I was pulled in and didn't want to put this book down until I devoured it.

This book isn't the traditional type of novel, it's prosy, I'd say it's closer to a long narrative poem than a novel. While there are characters, they are all nameless, faceless, yet their story is told, in a beautiful, flowing narrative. From their first moments on the ship to their lives in California, they author tells their story and I found it to be beautifully well done.

You do get a full story, as the reader, you can feel the power and emotion of the characters who are speaking as one, telling their story, and while it wasn't exactly what I expected from this book, I think they way the author chose to tell the story was incredibly well done. I loved how well it flowed, how lovely the writing was, I couldn't put this book down, reading it in a sitting - truly a spectacular book

Also found on my book review blog Jules' Book Reviews - The Buddha in the Attic ( )
  bookwormjules | Feb 28, 2015 |
Loved it. Read it very quickly, and was sad when it was over. I really like this writing style, "collective first person" I believe it's been called, and would actually like to try it out in my own work. Highly recommended. ( )
  KelAppNic | Feb 14, 2015 |
Otsuka's book was an unexpected delight—but, yes, it is definitely thought provoking. She designates it a novel, but for me it was a poem of the very best kind. The writing sings; it just happens to relate a story. No, many stories, the most dramatic and poignant of which is the transport of Japanese during WWII. The book is short, about 100 pages, but I believe it will stay with me a long time. Although I rarely recommend a book, this one I recommend highly. ( )
  AntT | Jan 24, 2015 |
The style of first-person plural is not an easy one to use in a novel. In this case it serves to remind the reader that the story describes the experience of a vast number of individuals. The text forms a rhythmic, steady pulse beating time to the inevitable conclusion. It is a heart-breaking reminder that for many immigrants, life in the new world was not what they expected. In this case the immigrants were Japanese "picture brides", carrying photos of their prospective husbands who in reality turned out to be quite different from their descriptions: the first of many disappointments.

This book is a little jewel: important to history and to our multi-cultural society. Highly recommended. ( )
1 vote VivienneR | Dec 9, 2014 |
This historical fiction novel tells the story of Japanese "picture brides" coming to California in the early 1900s.  It begins with their journey on the ship from Japan, and continues through their first nights with their new husbands (few of whom match their photos or descriptions), their work and lives in America, the birth and raising of their children, and the effects of World War II on them all, culminating with their being sent away to relocation camps.  The final chapter of the book is written from the point of view of the non-Japanese families left behind.

The latter section of the book is strongest.  California-born author Julie Otsuka's Japanese-American grandfather was arrested as a suspected spy the day after the Pearl Harbor attack, and his wife and children (including Otsuka's mother) spent three years in the Topaz, Utah relocation center.

The book is unusual in that it is written almost entirely in first person plural, and it reads almost like free verse, thanks to the repetition of phrases (usually at the beginning of sentences).  This does get tedious after a while, as the repetition makes the book start sounding like a series of lists.  That, and the use of the "we" narrator, limits character development.

This book won the 2012 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the 2011 Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction, and was a 2011 National Book Award finalist for fiction.  Actress Samantha Quan reads most of the book, while well-known audiobook narrator Carrington MacDuffie handles the final chapter.

© Amanda Pape - 2014

[This audiobook was borrowed from and returned to my university library. This review also appears on Bookin' It.] ( )
1 vote riofriotex | Aug 23, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 114 (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)

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