The Buddha in the Attic

The Buddha in the Attic

Book - 2011
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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
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2011
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780307700001
Characteristics: 129 p. ; 20 cm


From Library Staff

This collection of short vignettes follows Japanese war brides from the ship through internment and beyond. Multiple changing voices the changing times. Moving.

From the critics

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Apr 26, 2019

I found the rather unusual format and voice an excellent means to tell the various stories of the "picture brides" and all they experienced coming to a new country and a new husband. I completely enjoyed this book, and will look at others by this author. A fascinating look into both women's minds/views and that of the immigrant Japanese, struggling with both a completely different culture and marriage to a man who was often very different than what he'd portrayed in his letters.

Apr 10, 2019

A slim book that packs a big punch. It tells the collective story of a group of Japanese 'picture brides' starting with their arduous journey by boat to America, through their lives full of back breaking farming or other labor, to the beginning of WW2 and their departure for the internment camps where their whole families eventually ended up. With the use of the collective 'we' Otsuka has managed to give a voice to all these women who bravely tried to escape the fate of being almost nobody in Japan but sadly became completely nobody setting foot on American soil. The repetitive structure reminiscent of an incantation makes the prose extra memorable and strangely haunting.
All in all, a quick but powerful and fiercely poetic read that leaves a lingering impression.

Feb 28, 2018

Written as a list of things that mail order Japanese brides felt about their lives each chapter is both wonderful and disturbing. It is like seeing into the minds and lives of these brave strong women. It gives a picture of the culture they left behind and the struggles of their adjusting to a new life.

For me it was very eye opening. I love the study of history and my birth close to the ending of WW11 has made me interested in that time and things connected to it. Ms Otsuka takes us on a journey from the early 20th century to immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
I recommend it for anyone that is interested in how white privilege is and has affected those who come to the United States.

Sep 19, 2017

This was an interesting premise but the use of the first person plural tense made it utimately frustrating. We did this and we did that so that by page 65 I had lost interest. By trying to cover every Japanese experience in America she really put in too much and diluted the narrative. It would have been better to focua on one or two families.

SnoIsleLib_DarrenN May 04, 2017

Otsuka has written a hauntingly poetic, concisely crafted, and stylistically pioneering work that memorializes the collective voice and experience of Japanese brides arranged to marry unmet and unknown immigrants earlier in American history. With persistent and deeply felt *first* person plural narrative ("we were..we had..") The Buddha in the Attic claims every individual woman's experience as part of the fabric of every other's.

JCLSamS May 02, 2017

While the subject matter was thoroughly interesting and important, I found the use of the first person plural tense and lack of focus on any one person or character to be too distancing. It somehow made the stories feel less real or relatable, which is likely the opposite of the author's intent.

Feb 25, 2017

My book club enjoyed this title. Themes of immigration, assimilation, and a woman's place in the world are explored by Japanese brides of American men.

Jan 19, 2016

In spare, almost lyrical prose, Otsuka shares the history of Japanese "picture brides" from the early 20th century through the early years of World War II. Written in 8 sections in the third person, the author shares the immigrant experience from arrival to assimilation to internment after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This short novel will haunt you long after you finish reading it. The book should provide a good discussion at the January meeting of the Willa Cather Book Club.

Jun 16, 2015

Although only 129 pages long, this novel packs a punch. It is the story of mail order brides from Japan who travel to San Francisco. Each of the 8 chapters deals with a different adjustment and historical period: Come Japanese!, First Night, Whites, Babies, The Children, Traitors, Last Day, Disappearance. Each paragraph deals with the women as a collective, but describes their individual experience in a sentence. “They gave us new names. They called us Helen. They called us Margaret, They called us Pearl (pg 40)”.
It is an immigrant story, but also the story of first generation Americans, and of the resettlement camps of WWII. It offers speculation, rumour, innuendo, and myth as a way of dealing with the unknown. A quick read but not a light-weight one.

Apr 21, 2014

This short novel is about the "picture brides" who came to California from Japan in the early 1900s and their lives and their families' lives up to the internment of the Japanese during WW II. Like other readers, I did not find that the use of the collective first person to encompass the experiences of many really worked. Also, for a book which does not attempt to universalize but is specifically about Japanese people, it is not clear how their experiences were different from other migrant workers.

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Dec 24, 2014

And even though we had no idea what he was saying we knew exactly what he meant.

Jul 05, 2013

This is America, we would say to ourselves, there is no need to worry. And we would be wrong.


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Nov 28, 2014

Arjava thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


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Nov 24, 2014

Beautifully written, poetic prose, flowing and lovely. Of the japan experience related to immigration memories and challenges and political consequences of being a visible minority and Asian. North American sterotypes of other and visa versa from the Asian side, views of Americans. The author is japanese american.


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