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

by Julie Otsuka

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,5021494,928 (3.77)211
Member:Poprockz
Title:The Buddha in the Attic
Authors:Julie Otsuka
Info:Knopf (2011), Hardcover, 144 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned, Favorites
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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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» See also 211 mentions

English (133)  French (4)  German (4)  Italian (3)  Dutch (2)  Piratical (1)  Norwegian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (149)
Showing 1-5 of 133 (next | show all)
I was interested in the lives the women had lived when brought here under the horrible conditions these women had been, Sold to men in America as wives, directly from Japan some not even passed puberty yet. The details are there, as they traveled through the experience. The are listed like a grocery list with little emotion. It is a collective or truths about the women "WE" their trip, their husbands, their work, their children, their encampment. Little details, big details. Then it just ends. I was disappointed, it felt like a warm up, then nothing.
I am between 2.5 and 3 stars on this one. i wish I passed on it. ( )
  TheYodamom | Jan 29, 2016 |
Buddha In The Atticis a small book and different from a style of writing that I would usually lean to.
I opened it hoping for something similar to the picture brides from Honolulu

Instead, a Japanese narrator speaks in a "collective voice" and traces the picture
brides voyage and arrival, all the in betweens to the eventual prospect of internment.
There is no individual to follow but many instead.
Then an American narrator speaks collectively tracing the effects of the Japanese
no longer present in the city.

Probably not my personal favorite but interesting, none the less ( )
  pennsylady | Jan 27, 2016 |
Enjoyable, insightful, evokes a wide range of feelings for the reader. Recommend it. ( )
  pammosk | Jan 26, 2016 |
The Buddha in the Attic is sparse account of Japanese ‘picture brides’ experiences in America: the hopes and dreams of a new life in America; the disappointment of the meeting the men they are promised to; the abuses they faced from their husbands and from the others around them; the fear of and sadness of life in a new country; the harshness of manual labor working for as maids, laundress, groceries, and farm labors; the rejection they faced from society, from their husbands, and even from their children; the fear of the interment process; and even a few moments when life wasn’t disappointing.

It was a pretty dark and depressing little novel. And told in the third person singular (we) forces the reader to recognize the collective nature of the experiences of these women. Lot of folks will find the writing style annoying and are unable to connect with these women. For this story had been told as a single person narrative it wouldn’t had been as impactful for a story with a wide ranging experience of picture brides and the interment of the Japanese people deserve. My only issue with the story is how diverse Otsuka made California sound. Her depictions of rural northern California and the lives of farmers was spot on. It was actually pretty cool for someone like me to get the places I grew up in name dropped and for those places to feel authentic (Yuba City, Gridley, Elk Grove, Chico, Lincoln, etc.). The problem is that the very small populations of these places just haven’t been all that diverse through our collective past. I think making the lives of the Japanese characters throughout California was to make their absence something more widely felt. But the sad reality is that internment went unnoticed by very large portions of the state. ( )
  stretch | Jan 26, 2016 |
The subject of Japanese Americans during WWII is not a subject in which I am well versed, and I found this book intriguing. The summary calls the writing style of the novella "incantatory", which is an apt description of the staccato-like cadence of the writing. Many voices speaking about the same subject and separated by an ellipses. The tone is perfectly set in Otsuka's writing style in that it gives the impression of faltering, hesitant, circumspect recollections.

The chapters are written to highlight a particular part of the journey, moving chronologically from the war brides' time on the boat to America to their eventual internment during the war. Each chapter provides a collage of the event (meeting their new husbands for the first time, bearing children, forced into migrant work, etc.). It is a very concise yet stunningly completely view of the scene.

This will make me run right out for Otsuka's other book, When the Emperor Was Divine.

Highly recommended, but with adult themes. ( )
  CarmenMilligan | Jan 18, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 133 (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 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)

» see all 5 descriptions

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