The Buddha in the Attic
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The Buddha in the Attic

3.4 166
by Julie Otsuka
     
 

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Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award For Fiction
National Book Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist
A New York Times Notable Book

A gorgeous novel by the celebrated author of When the Emperor Was Divine that tells the story of a group of young women brought from Japan to San Francisco as “picture

Overview

Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award For Fiction
National Book Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist
A New York Times Notable Book

A gorgeous novel by the celebrated author of When the Emperor Was Divine that tells the story of a group of young women brought from Japan to San Francisco as “picture brides” nearly a century ago. In eight unforgettable sections, The Buddha in the Attic traces the extraordinary lives of these women, from their arduous journeys by boat, to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new wives; from their experiences raising children who would later reject their culture and language, to the deracinating arrival of war. Once again, Julie Otsuka has written a spellbinding novel about identity and loyalty, and what it means to be an American in uncertain times.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Exquisitely written. . . . An understated masterpiece…that unfolds with great emotional power. . . . Destined to endure.” —The San Francisco Chronicle

“Arresting and alluring. . . . A novel that feels expansive yet is a magical act of compression.” —Chicago Tribune

“A stunning feat of empathetic imagination and emotional compression, capturing the experience of thousands of women.” —Vogue
 
“Otsuka’s incantatory style pulls her prose close to poetry. . . . Filled with evocative descriptive sketches…and hesitantly revelatory confessions.” —The New York Times Book Review

“A fascinating paradox: brief in span yet symphonic in scope, all-encompassing yet vivid in its specifics. Like a pointillist painting, it’s composed of bright spots of color: vignettes that bring whole lives to light in a line or two, adding up to a vibrant group portrait.” —The Seattle Times
 
“Mesmerizing. . . . Told in a first-person plural voice that feels haunting and intimate, the novel traces the fates of these nameless women in America. . . . Otsuka extracts the grace and strength at the core of immigrant (and female) survival and, with exquisite care, makes us rethink the heartbreak of eternal hope. Though the women vanish, their words linger.” —More
 
“Spare and stunning. . . . By using the collective ‘we’ to convey a constantly shifting, strongly held group identity within which distinct individuals occasionally emerge and recede, Otsuka has created a tableau as intricate as the pen strokes her humble immigrant girls learned to use in letters to loved ones they’d never see again.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
 
“With great daring and spectacular success, she has woven countless stories gleaned from her research into a chorus of the women’s voices, speaking their collective experience in a plural ‘we,’ while incorporating the wide range of their individual lives. . . . The Buddha in the Attic moves forward in waves of experiences, like movements in a musical composition. . . . By its end, Otsuka’s book has become emblematic of the brides themselves: slender and serene on the outside, tough, weathered and full of secrets on the inside.” —Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
 
“A gorgeous mosaic of the hopes and dreams that propelled so many immigrants across an ocean to an unknown country. . . . Otsuka illuminates the challenges, suffering and occasional joy that they found in their new homeland. . . . Wrought in exquisite poetry, each sentence spare in words, precise in meaning and eloquently evocative, like a tanka poem, this book is a rare, unique treat. . . . Rapturous detail. . . . A history lesson in heartbreak.” —Washington Independent Review of Books
 
“[Otsuka] brazenly writes in hundreds of voices that rise up into one collective cry of sorrow, loneliness and confusion. . . . The sentences are lean, and the material reflects a shameful time in our nation’s past. . . . Otsuka winds a thread of despair throughout the book, haunting the reader at every chapter. . . . Otsuka masterfully creates a chorus of the unforgettable voices that echo throughout the chambers of this slim but commanding novel, speaking of a time that no American should ever forget.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
 
“Daring. . . . Frequently mesmerizing. . . . Otsuka has the moves of cinematographer, zooming in for close-ups, then pulling back for wide lens group shots. . . . [Otsuka is] a master of understatement and apt detail. . . . Her stories seem rooted in curiosity and a desire to understand.” —Bookpage
 
“Precise, focused. . . . Penetrating. . . . See it and you’ll want to pick it up. Start reading it and you won’t want to put it down. . . . A boldly imagined work that takes a stylistic risk more daring and exciting than many brawnier books five times its size. Even the subject matter is daring. . . . Specific, clear, multitudinous in its grasp and subtly emotional.” —The Huffington Post

Alida Becker
In the Japanese art of sumi-e, strokes of ink are brushed across sheets of rice paper, the play of light and dark capturing not just images but sensations, not just surfaces but the essence of what lies within. Simplicity of line is prized, extraneous detail discouraged. Although Julie Otsuka was born and raised in California…she seems perfectly attuned to the spirit of sumi-e…Proof arrived almost a decade ago…with the publication of her first novel, When the Emperor Was Divine, a spare but resonant portrait of one Japanese-American family's daily life, at home and in the internment camps, during World War II. Now she returns with a second novel, also employing a minimalist technique, that manages to be equally intimate yet much more expansive.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
In the early 1900s, numerous Japanese mail order brides came to America seeking better lives. Otsuka's (When the Emperor was Divine) latest novel paints a delicate, heartbreaking portrait of these women. Using a collective first-person narrator ("On the boat we were mostly virgins."), Otsuka looks at the experiences of these "picture brides," organizing their stories into themes which include: their arrival in America; their first nights with their husbands; their interactions with white people; their children; and finally, the experience of World War II. Each section is beautifully rendered, a delicate amalgam of contrasting and complementary experiences. Readers will instantly empathize with these unnamed women as they adjust to American culture, a remarkable achievement considering Otsuka's use of the collective voice. Otsuka's prose is precise and rich with imagery. Readers will be inspired to draw their own parallels between the experiences of these women and the modern experience of immigration. By the time readers realize that the story is headed toward the internment of the Japanese, they are hopelessly engaged and will finish this exceptional book profoundly moved. (Aug.)
Library Journal
In her acclaimed When the Emperor Was Divine, Otsuka wrought third-person narratives of a northern California Japanese family facing internment and alienation during World War II. Now she gives us a luminous second novel, setting off from the early 20th century on a ship of "picture brides" headed from Japan to San Francisco to meet Japanese workers who have arranged to marry them. Otsuka works an enchantment upon her readers—no Sturm und Drang here—and leaves us haunted and astonished at the powers of her subtlety and charms. This time she employs a choral-like narrative expressed in the third-person plural, with a gentle use of repetitive phrasing ("One of us…"; "Some of us…") punctuated by small, italicized utterances representing individual voices. The results are cumulatively overwhelming, as we become embedded in the hope, disenchantment, courage, labor, and resignation of these nameless women and their families across four decades. Did they think all their compromises, their search for community, meant that they had found a place here in America? Or, just as they had been upon their arrival in California, were they mistaken about what this land had to offer them? VERDICT Unforgettable and essential both for readers and writers. [See Prepub Alert, 2/14/11.]—Margaret Heilbrun, Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews

Otsuka, whose first novel (When the Emperor Was Divine, 2003) focused on one specific Japanese-American family's plight during and after internment, takes the broad view in this novella-length consideration of Japanese mail-order brides making a life for themselves in America in the decades before World War II.

There are no central characters. A first-person-plural chorus narrates the women's experiences from their departure from Japan until they are removed from their homes and shipped to the camps, at which point the narration is taken over by clueless whites. Rather than following an individual story, Otsuka lists experience after experience, piling name upon name. Voyaging across the Pacific to California, the women's emotions range from fear to excitement, but most, even those leaving behind secret lovers, are hopeful. Reality sets in when they meet their husbands, who are seldom the men they seemed from their letters and photographs. And the men's reactions to their new wives vary as much as the women's. Some are loving, some abusive. For all their differences, whether farm workers, laundrymen, gardeners or struggling entrepreneurs, they share a common outsider status. Soon the majority of women who stay married—some die or run off or are abandoned—are working alongside their husbands. They begin to have babies and find themselves raising children who speak English and consider themselves American. And the women have become entrenched; some even have relationships with the whites around them; many are financially comfortable. But with the arrival of the war against Japan come rumors. Japanese and white Americans look at each other differently. Loyalty is questioned. Anti-Japanese laws are passed. And the Japanese themselves no longer know whom to trust as more and more of them disappear each day. Once they are truly gone, off to the camps, the whites feel a mix of guilt and relief, then begin to forget the Japanese who had been their neighbors.

A lovely prose poem that gives a bitter history lesson.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307744425
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/20/2012
Pages:
144
Sales rank:
61,608
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

Come, Japanese!

On the boat we were mostly virgins. We had long black hair and flat wide feet and we were not very tall. Some of us had eaten nothing but rice gruel as young girls and had slightly bowed legs, and some of us were only fourteen years old and were still young girls ourselves. Some of us came from the city, and wore stylish city clothes, but many more of us came from the country and on the boat we wore the same old kimonos we'd been wearing for years-faded hand-me-downs from our sisters that had been patched and redyed many times. Some of us came from the mountains, and had never before seen the sea, except for in pictures, and some of us were the daughters of fishermen who had been around the sea all our lives. Perhaps we had lost a brother or father to the sea, or a fiancé, or perhaps someone we loved had jumped into the water one unhappy morning and simply swum away, and now it was time for us, too, to move on.

On the boat the first thing we did-before deciding who we liked and didn't like, before telling each other which one of the islands we were from, and why we were leaving, before even bothering to learn each other's names-was compare photographs of our husbands. They were handsome young men with dark eyes and full heads of hair and skin that was smooth and unblemished. Their chins were strong. Their posture, good. Their noses were straight and high. They looked like our brothers and fathers back home, only better dressed, in gray frock coats and fine Western three-piece suits. Some of them were standing on sidewalks in front of wooden A-frame houses with white picket fences and neatly mowed lawns, and some were leaning in driveways against Model T Fords. Some were sitting in studios on stiff high- backed chairs with their hands neatly folded and staring straight into the camera, as though they were ready to take on the world. All of them had promised to be there, waiting for us, in San Francisco, when we sailed into port.

On the boat, we often wondered: Would we like them? Would we love them? Would we recognize them from their pictures when we first saw them on the dock?

On the boat we slept down below, in steerage, where it was filthy and dim. Our beds were narrow metal racks stacked one on top of the other and our mattresses were hard and thin and darkened with the stains of other journeys, other lives. Our pillows were stuffed with dried wheat hulls. Scraps of food littered the passageways between berths and the floors were wet and slick. There was one porthole, and in the evening, after the hatch was closed, the darkness filled with whispers. Will it hurt? Bodies tossed and turned beneath the blankets. The sea rose and fell. The damp air stifled. At night we dreamed of our husbands. We dreamed of new wooden sandals and endless bolts of indigo silk and of living, one day, in a house with a chimney. We dreamed we were lovely and tall. We dreamed we were back in the rice paddies, which we had so desperately wanted to escape. The rice paddy dreams were always nightmares. We dreamed of our older and prettier sisters who had been sold to the geisha houses by our fathers so that the rest of us might eat, and when we woke we were gasping for air. For a second I thought I was her.

Our first few days on the boat we were seasick, and could not keep down our food, and had to make repeated trips to the railing. Some of us were so dizzy we could not even walk, and lay in our berths in a dull stupor, unable to remember our own names, not to mention those of our new husbands. Remind me one more time, I'm Mrs. Who? Some of us clutched our stomachs and prayed out loud to Kannon, the goddess of mercy-Where are you?-while others of us preferred to turn silently green. And often, in the middle of the night, we were jolted awake by a violent swell and for a brief moment we had no idea where we were, or why our beds would not stop moving, or why our hearts were pounding with such dread. Earthquake was the first thought that usually came to our minds. We reached out for our mothers then, in whose arms we had slept until the morning we left home. Were they sleeping now? Were they dreaming? Were they thinking of us night and day? Were they still walking three steps behind our fathers on the streets with their arms full of packages while our fathers carried nothing at all? Were they secretly envious of us for sailing away? Didn't I give you everything? Had they remembered to air out our old kimonos? Had they remembered to feed the cats? Had they made sure to tell us everything we needed to know? Hold your teacup with both hands, stay out of the sun, never say more than you have to.

Most of us on the boat were accomplished, and were sure we would make good wives. We knew how to cook and sew. We knew how to serve tea and arrange flowers and sit quietly on our flat wide feet for hours, saying absolutely nothing of substance at all. A girl must blend into a room: she must be present without appearing to exist. We knew how to behave at funerals, and how to write short, melancholy poems about the passing of autumn that were exactly seventeen syllables long. We knew how to pull weeds and chop kindling and haul water, and one of us-the rice miller's daughter-knew how to walk two miles into town with an eighty-pound sack of rice on her back without once breaking into a sweat. It's all in the way you breathe. Most of us had good manners, and were extremely polite, except for when we got mad and cursed like sailors. Most of us spoke like ladies most of the time, with our voices pitched high, and pretended to know much less than we did, and whenever we walked past the deckhands we made sure to take small, mincing steps with our toes turned properly in. Because how many times had our mothers told us: Walk like the city, not like the farm!

On the boat we crowded into each other's bunks every night and stayed up for hours discussing the unknown continent ahead of us. The people there were said to eat nothing but meat and their bodies were covered with hair (we were mostly Buddhist, and did not eat meat, and only had hair in the appropriate places). The trees were enormous. The plains were vast. The women were loud and tall-a full head taller, we had heard, than the tallest of our men. The language was ten times as difficult as our own and the customs were unfathomably strange. Books were read from back to front and soap was used in the bath. Noses were blown on dirty cloths that were stuffed back into pockets only to be taken out later and used again and again. The opposite of white was not red, but black. What would become of us, we wondered, in such an alien land? We imagined ourselves-an unusually small people armed only with our guidebooks-entering a country of giants. Would we be laughed at? Spat on? Or, worse yet, would we not be taken seriously at all? But even the most reluctant of us had to admit that it was better to marry a stranger in America than grow old with a farmer from the village. Because in America the women did not have to work in the fields and there was plenty of rice and firewood for all. And wherever you went the men held open the doors and tipped their hats and called out, "Ladies first" and "After you."

Some of us on the boat were from Kyoto, and were delicate and fair, and had lived our entire lives in darkened rooms at the back of the house. Some of us were from Nara, and prayed to our ancestors three times a day, and swore we could still hear the temple bells ringing. Some of us were farmers' daughters from Yamaguchi with thick wrists and broad shoulders who had never gone to bed after nine. Some of us were from a small mountain hamlet in Yamanashi and had only recently seen our first train. Some of us were from Tokyo, and had seen everything, and spoke beautiful Japanese, and did not mix much with any of the others. Many more of us were from Kagoshima and spoke in a thick southern dialect that those of us from Tokyo pretended we could not understand. Some of us were from Hokkaido, where it was snowy and cold, and would dream of that white landscape for years. Some of us were from Hiroshima, which would later explode, and were lucky to be on the boat at all though of course we did not then know it. The youngest of us was twelve, and from the eastern shore of Lake Biwa, and had not yet begun to bleed. My parents married me off for the betrothal money. The oldest of us was thirty-seven, and from Niigata, and had spent her entire life taking care of her invalid father, whose recent death made her both happy and sad. I knew I could only marry if he died. One of us was from Kumamoto, where there were no more eligible men-all of the eligible men had left the year before to find work in Manchuria-and felt fortunate to have found any kind of husband at all. I took one look at his photograph and told the matchmaker, "He'll do." One of us was from a silk-weaving village in Fukushima, and had lost her first husband to the flu, and her second to a younger and prettier woman who lived on the other side of the hill, and now she was sailing to America to marry her third. He's healthy, he doesn't drink, he doesn't gamble, that's all I needed to know. One of us was a former dancing girl from Nagoya who dressed beautifully, and had translucent white skin, and knew everything there was to know about men, and it was to her we turned every night with our questions. How long will it last? With the lamp lit or in the dark? Legs up or down? Eyes open or closed? What if I can't breathe? What if I get thirsty? What if he is too heavy? What if he is too big? What if he does not want me at all? "Men are really quite simple," she told us. And then she began to explain.

On the boat we sometimes lay awake for hours in the swaying damp darkness of the hold, filled with longing and dread, and wondered how we would last another three weeks.

On the boat we carried with us in our trunks all the things we would need for our new lives: white silk kimonos for our wedding night, colorful cotton kimonos for everyday wear, plain cotton kimonos for when we grew old, calligraphy brushes, thick black sticks of ink, thin sheets of rice paper on which to write long letters home, tiny brass Buddhas, ivory statues of the fox god, dolls we had slept with since we were five, bags of brown sugar with which to buy favors, bright cloth quilts, paper fans, English phrase books, flowered silk sashes, smooth black stones from the river that ran behind our house, a lock of hair from a boy we had once touched, and loved, and promised to write, even though we knew we never would, silver mirrors given to us by our mothers, whose last words still rang in our ears. You will see: women are weak, but mothers are strong.

On the boat we complained about everything. Bedbugs. Lice. Insomnia. The constant dull throb of the engine, which worked its way even into our dreams. We complained about the stench from the latrines-huge, gaping holes that opened out onto the sea-and our own slowly ripening odor, which seemed to grow more pungent by the day. We complained about Kazuko's aloofness, Chiyo's throat clearing, Fusayo's incessant humming of the "Teapicker's Song," which was driving us all slowly crazy. We complained about our disappearing hairpins-who among us was the thief?-and how the girls from first class had never once said hello from beneath their violet silk parasols in all the times they had walked past us up above on the deck. Just who do they think they are? We complained about the heat. The cold. The scratchy wool blankets. We complained about our own complaining. Deep down, though, most of us were really very happy, for soon we would be in America with our new husbands, who had written to us many times over the months. I have bought a beautiful house. You can plant tulips in the garden. Daffodils. Whatever you like. I own a farm. I operate a hotel. I am the president of a large bank. I left Japan several years ago to start my own business and can provide for you well. I am 179 centimeters tall and do not suffer from leprosy or lung disease and there is no history of madness in my family. I am a native of Okayama. Of Hyogo. Of Miyagi. Of Shizuoka. I grew up in the village next to yours and saw you once years ago at a fair. I will send you the money for your passage as soon as I can.

On the boat we carried our husbands' pictures in tiny oval lockets that hung on long chains from our necks. We carried them in silk purses and old tea tins and red lacquer boxes and in the thick brown envelopes from America in which they had originally been sent. We carried them in the sleeves of our kimonos, which we touched often, just to make sure they were still there. We carried them pressed flat between the pages of Come, Japanese! and Guidance for Going to America and Ten Ways to Please a Man and old, well-worn volumes of the Buddhist sutras, and one of us, who was Christian, and ate meat, and prayed to a different and longer-haired god, carried hers between the pages of a King James Bible. And when we asked her which man she liked better-the man in the photograph or the Lord Jesus Himself-she smiled mysteriously and replied, "Him, of course."

Several of us on the boat had secrets, which we swore we would keep from our husbands for the rest of our lives. Perhaps the real reason we were sailing to America was to track down a long-lost father who had left the family years before. He went to Wyoming to work in the coal mines and we never heard from him again. Or perhaps we were leaving behind a young daughter who had been born to a man whose face we could now barely recall-a traveling storyteller who had spent a week in the village, or a wandering Buddhist priest who had stopped by the house late one night on his way to Mt. Fuji.

From the Hardcover edition.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

“Exquisitely written. . . . An understated masterpiece…that unfolds with great emotional power. . . . Destined to endure.” —The San Francisco Chronicle

“Arresting and alluring. . . . A novel that feels expansive yet is a magical act of compression.” —Chicago Tribune

“A stunning feat of empathetic imagination and emotional compression, capturing the experience of thousands of women.” —Vogue
 
“Otsuka’s incantatory style pulls her prose close to poetry. . . . Filled with evocative descriptive sketches…and hesitantly revelatory confessions.” —The New York Times Book Review

“A fascinating paradox: brief in span yet symphonic in scope, all-encompassing yet vivid in its specifics. Like a pointillist painting, it’s composed of bright spots of color: vignettes that bring whole lives to light in a line or two, adding up to a vibrant group portrait.” —The Seattle Times
 
“Mesmerizing. . . . Told in a first-person plural voice that feels haunting and intimate, the novel traces the fates of these nameless women in America. . . . Otsuka extracts the grace and strength at the core of immigrant (and female) survival and, with exquisite care, makes us rethink the heartbreak of eternal hope. Though the women vanish, their words linger.” —More
 
“Spare and stunning. . . . By using the collective ‘we’ to convey a constantly shifting, strongly held group identity within which distinct individuals occasionally emerge and recede, Otsuka has created a tableau as intricate as the pen strokes her humble immigrant girls learned to use in letters to loved ones they’d never see again.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
 
“With great daring and spectacular success, she has woven countless stories gleaned from her research into a chorus of the women’s voices, speaking their collective experience in a plural ‘we,’ while incorporating the wide range of their individual lives. . . . The Buddha in the Attic moves forward in waves of experiences, like movements in a musical composition. . . . By its end, Otsuka’s book has become emblematic of the brides themselves: slender and serene on the outside, tough, weathered and full of secrets on the inside.” —Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
 
“A gorgeous mosaic of the hopes and dreams that propelled so many immigrants across an ocean to an unknown country. . . . Otsuka illuminates the challenges, suffering and occasional joy that they found in their new homeland. . . . Wrought in exquisite poetry, each sentence spare in words, precise in meaning and eloquently evocative, like a tanka poem, this book is a rare, unique treat. . . . Rapturous detail. . . . A history lesson in heartbreak.” —Washington Independent Review of Books
 
“[Otsuka] brazenly writes in hundreds of voices that rise up into one collective cry of sorrow, loneliness and confusion. . . . The sentences are lean, and the material reflects a shameful time in our nation’s past. . . . Otsuka winds a thread of despair throughout the book, haunting the reader at every chapter. . . . Otsuka masterfully creates a chorus of the unforgettable voices that echo throughout the chambers of this slim but commanding novel, speaking of a time that no American should ever forget.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
 
“Daring. . . . Frequently mesmerizing. . . . Otsuka has the moves of cinematographer, zooming in for close-ups, then pulling back for wide lens group shots. . . . [Otsuka is] a master of understatement and apt detail. . . . Her stories seem rooted in curiosity and a desire to understand.” —Bookpage
 
“Precise, focused. . . . Penetrating. . . . See it and you’ll want to pick it up. Start reading it and you won’t want to put it down. . . . A boldly imagined work that takes a stylistic risk more daring and exciting than many brawnier books five times its size. Even the subject matter is daring. . . . Specific, clear, multitudinous in its grasp and subtly emotional.” —The Huffington Post

Meet the Author

Julie Otsuka was born and raised in California. She is the author of the novel When the Emperor Was Divine and a recipient of the Asian American Literary Award, the American Library Association Alex Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives in New York City.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
New York, New York
Date of Birth:
May 15, 1962
Place of Birth:
Palo Alto, California
Education:
B.A., Yale University, 1984; M.F.A., Columbia University, 1999
Website:
http://www.julieotsuka.com/

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The Buddha in the Attic 3.4 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 166 reviews.
LettoreBella More than 1 year ago
When I think of my Italian grandmother immigrating to the U.S. in 1916, I'd be fooling myself to imagine a cheerful scenario of twinkling red and green lights and steaming trays of homemade lasagna served on a white lace tablecloth. The truth, with its elements of hunger, poverty and alleged domestic abuse, is a much darker story. And yet she immigrated hoping for a better life than the one she was leaving behind. The mail-order brides in Julie Otsuka's Buddha in the Attic cross the ocean hoping for a better fate than the "farm wife" lives they are destined to lead in Japan. Their dreams of handsome husbands and affluent lives dissolve the moment they set foot in America. In the collective voice of a generation, Otsuka tells of the the disappointment, despair and brutality that awaits so many of these women. Those who are defiant and determined often end up victimized in other ways. Many grit their teeth and soldier on to bring forth children whose "Americanization" is heartbreakingly depicted. This small book isn't emotionally easy, but thanks to Otsuka's blistering, unsentimental prose, it's compulsively readable. Much of it is sad and shocking. But it will make you grateful for those who came before and had the courage to live their lives allowing us opportunities and an existence they could only dream of.
BabyHouseman87 More than 1 year ago
Julie Otsuka writes beautifully. While other reviewers didn't like the "we" voice she used, and thought there should have been a main character, I kind of disagree. I think using multiple perspectives was more suitable for the story because she wrote the book on behalf of an entire generation of Japanese women. This was a good, quick read filled with poetic language and stories that were both fascinating and tragic. I really enjoyed it.
thecollector0 More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this book. The story was interesting, fun, and unpredictable! I highly recommend this book and this author! I cant wait to read more from her.
California-Cori More than 1 year ago
at only 101 pages it's a quick read but I loved every minute of it! I recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was not only very interesting, but a history lesson...GREAT, short read!
jgJG More than 1 year ago
Thought provoking. Simple read but so interesting it was hard to put down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is written in a third party form that seemed to distract the reader to the humanity contained in its pages. It was difficult to touch any of the characters in the book, because no relationship was invested between you and the pages. I wanted to delve into some of the characters but was not given the opportunity, albeight you would catch a glimpse of a something. I would recommend this book only on a general level and not for a read that keeps you not wanting to finish it.
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Joesmar More than 1 year ago
You will enjoy reading this if you enjoy reading historical stories of women.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written book and gives insight into Japanese women's lives in the US before WWII and how much the war impacted the community.
Marialisabetta More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was a very powerful account of the Japanese brides who came to the US in the 1930s. The author used an unusual technique: instead of following a specific person's story, she told a group story: "we were young, excited, scared.' This enabled her to tell many stories at one time. Some people in my book club didn't like this style; they prefer to hear one person's story. I, on the other hand, thought this technique was very effective. I recommend this book.
Starry_reader More than 1 year ago
This story is based around Japanese girls who deceivingly arrived into an America that didn't welcomed them. Poverty, superstition, hopes, dreams, and lies are the background that line the story. Throughout the book, the girls become women, mothers, wives, lovers, refugees, and prisoners. They endure hardships and maintain faith and hope despite the circumstances around them that teach them otherwise. The book is compelling as it tells the collective stories of a lost generation of women, however, as compelling and heartfelt that the story is, is hard for the reader to identify with the characters. There is no protagonist, the book is written in plural in second and third person and no character stands more than other.
Two2dogs More than 1 year ago
Very good read, I would recommend it and have passed the book on to my sister who also loves to read. I'd heard some of these stories of all immigrants, just makes you so proud of these women and grateful that they had the courage to pave the way for the rest of us, thank God for all these brave and strong women.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
woutersnoirs More than 1 year ago
Told in the we plural voice, this novel is lyrical to read. The prose is what drives this book forward. It is just beautiful. 
wagnerclassiccars More than 1 year ago
I loved When the Emperor Was Divine and The Buddha in the Attic was another masterpiece of eloquence. It was so well researched I never doubted the experiences described were not felt by many of the Japanese women who naively came to America thinking they live a dream.
osaka More than 1 year ago
This was an excellent story.  Such a terrible time in U.S. history.  Hope nothing like this ever happens again to anyone. Julie Otsuka please keep writing. I've never read anything in the first person plural and I enjoyed the flow of the story. I thought it gave a good overall feeling and insight to what different people must have experienced. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
IBEREADIN More than 1 year ago
This book was a surprise for me in many ways. Firstly, like many of my reads this year, it was not something I would have chosen for myself, however being the Book Club&rsquo;s choice for June, I opted to read it and see where it took me, and I am happy to report that  I found a rare gem of a book that will be making a permanent home on my bookshelf. The writing did not follow any format that I had experienced previous to opening the cover of this book, it is told in the first person plural and does not offer the reader a main character, or a specific story to follow, and I admit a few pages in I was admittedly confused as to where this book was heading, mainly as it seemed to be lacking the main character to which I normally attach&hellip; A few pages later I began to see that the &ldquo;main character&rdquo; is the &ldquo;we&rdquo; of the book, and once adjusted to the style and layout of the story, the &ldquo;we&ldquo; caught my interest and the tale of these young women from Japan began to unfold The writing is poetic (though  not poetry) in places but also very straightforward, if perhaps a bit formal, yet really leaves little to the imagination. When reading the section titled &ldquo;First Night&rdquo; for example,  I was struck by Otsuka&rsquo;s ability to tell the &ldquo;taking&rdquo; of these young women by their husbands in a straightforward and very honest way, without any of the romantic fanciful words you&lsquo;d expect, but just straightforward, this is what happened, language.&hellip; &quot;That night our new husbands took us quickly. They took us calmly. The took us gently, but firmly and without saying a word&hellip;. They took us flat on our backs on the bare floor of the Minute Motel. They took us downtown, in second rate rooms, at the Kumamoto Inn. They took us in the best hotels in San Francisco that a yellow man could set foot in at the time.&quot; And then further into the reading you find lines such as this, and you shake your head in disbelief at the innocence lost in such a few short words&hellip; &quot;for some of us had not been told by our mothers exactly what it was that this night would entail. I was thirteen years old and had  never looked a man in the eye.&quot; The novel carries through to the Second World War, and not to give the novel away, it is at this point that the true strength of the novel and the women who grace its pages both truly shine. The author brought me to the place I always hope to be in the final pages of  any novel&hellip;wanting to know more. The courage of these young women and their efforts to survive in America, left me both interested and captivated by their story. I recommend reading The Buddha in the Attic, it shares an all to often neglected story from American history, the writing is unique and well thought out, and I hope it will leave you walking away from it as I did, with a new appreciation for the Japanese people, their culture and some of their heroines&hellip;known as the Picture Brides.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I appreciated the style with regard to multiculturalism. So frequently we are left with generalizations only with regard to cultural experiences of a particular culture. Otsuka assists is in thinking about the fact the not all members of a particular culture think or behave in exactly the same way.