The Buddha in the Attic

The Buddha in the Attic

by Julie Otsuka

Gail Reid (11/26/12): A small but compelling book, The Buddha in the Attic recounts the years before World War II, when young Japanes e women left home by ship to marry wealthy and substantial Japanese-American businessmen and landowners.

But, such was not the case. The brides joined men who had falsified photos and letters and eked out meager existences, working the land or working in subservient roles for the white middle class. In spite of it all, the Japanese women raise their families and in many ways maintain their ethnic culture, often impressing their employers with their stamina and work ethic.

The book culminates in the deportation of the Japanese to work camps in the time before World War II. The author conveys powerful images in describing the anxiety and fear that the Japanese exhibited after more than twenty years of calling America home.

The unusual style of the book in which the story is told in the first person plural is,at first, engaging in conveying the collective feel of the new brides as they journey from Japan to the U.S. However,using this style continually through the book becomes repetitious and distracting.

I think The Buddha in the Attic does a fine job of describing, with minimal prose, this sad period in American history from which there is much to learn.
Rating: ****

Judy Stanton (12/16/11): A small yet powerful book about the sad treatment of the Japanese before and during WWII. The focus is on a group of Japanese women who braved a trip to America in hopes of a better life. These "picture brides" were falsely enticed to America, forced to marry older Japanese field workers, and put into lives of servitude. If that wasn't bad enough, after decades of building their communities and their families in this strange country, they are then forced to leave all they have established for internment camps by Americans frightened at a time of war. The book managed to show many different cases of people in diverse circumstances, but with a sing-song narrative of lists rather than any real depth. In this short novel, it was impactful but not compelling. Does not make one proud to be an American.
Rating: ***

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