Often relying on outdated or otherwise deceptive photographs and letters, they left everything they knew in order to wed Japanese laborers and farmers they had never met. Otsuka writes in the unusual first-person plural, interspersed with apparent quotations from historical and autobiographical sources. The book begins with the guarded optimism of the brides-to-be venturing toward their linked but disparate fates:. Most of us on the boat were accomplished, and were sure we would make good wives. We knew how to cook and sew.

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Look Inside Reading Guide. Reading Guide. Aug 23, Minutes Buy. 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. 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. She lives in New… More about Julie Otsuka. An understated masterpiece…that unfolds with great emotional power. Destined to endure. A novel that feels expansive yet is a magical act of compression.

Filled with evocative descriptive sketches…and hesitantly revelatory confessions. 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. The Buddha in the Attic moves forward in waves of experiences, like movements in a musical composition. 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.

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.

Frequently mesmerizing. Otsuka has the moves of cinematographer, zooming in for close-ups, then pulling back for wide lens group shots. Her stories seem rooted in curiosity and a desire to understand. 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. American Academy of Arts and Letters Lit.

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The Buddha in the Attic Reader’s Guide

The Buddha in the Attic is narrated in the first person plural, i. Discuss the impact of this narrative decision on your reading experience. Why do you think the author made the choice to tell the story from this perspective? The novel opens with the women on the boat traveling from Japan to San Francisco. What are their fears? What are these shifts in typography meant to connote? How do they add to our knowledge of the women as individuals?


The Buddha in the Attic

With The Buddha in the Attic , Julie Otsuka has developed a literary style that is half poetry, half narration — short phrases, sparse description, so that the current of emotion running through each chapter is made more resonant by her restraint. She takes as her subject the Japanese women brought over in their hundreds to San Francisco as mail-order brides in the interwar period. Instead of a single, named protagonist, Otsuka writes in the first personal plural through a series of thematic chapters. Such a device shouldn't work but does.


Coming to America, Lured by a Photo

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The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka – review

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 and trained as a painter in the Western tradition, she seems perfectly attuned to the spirit of sumi-e. Otsuka claims to have been a failure as an artist, but she might only have erred in choosing the wrong medium.

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