Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Buddha in the Attic

The Buddha in the Attic
Julie Otsuka
Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. 129 pages. Fiction.

Otsuka gathers her research into Japanese mail order brides from the turn of the 20th century in this beautifully-written tale of Japanese American women and the effects of immigration on their lives. The story is both anonymous and personal at the same time, with the entire book written as a collective "we" with few individual names shared at all. Each chapter describes a different segment in the women's journeys - on the boat, with their new husbands, with their children, their work, the war - sharing everyone's experiences in one voice.

This was one of the most stunning books I've read in a long time. The narration was beautiful and really gave a sense of the community these women must have felt in a culture that would have been extraordinarily foreign to them. And while the stories are brief - an entire scene described in one sentence - and often tragic, the reader is able to understand the strength and courage these women had to keep going in desperate circumstances.


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