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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Jul 28, 2020

An interesting and emotional literary historical fiction about Japanese "picture brides" who immigrated to the U.S. in the two decades just prior to World War II. I read a lot of complaints in reviews about the 1st person plural narrative, but I really liked that.

Jun 08, 2020

This is a short but powerful book. Told from one perspective, and yet from many perspectives of the Japanese young women who came to America for marriage and a hopeful future. This book broke my heart. Although this book is not written like a typical historical fiction book, or even a memoir, or even a biography, I feel it is all of these. It reads as raw and real. It's a reality that's hard to read. That even today, we treat people like they deserve to be treated badly, just because of their skin colour, speech, or even the clothes they wear. Let's all be better humans. Read this book.

DBRL_IdaF May 21, 2020

This is maybe the third novel I've ever read that was written in the collective first person point of view (we instead of I), and the first one where it worked for me as a reader. A group of picture brides comes from Japan to the U.S., having agreed to arranged marriages. It follows them from the ship through discovering the realities of the husbands they are marrying, birthing and raising children, and finally being taken away to camps after Pearl Harbor.

A lot of human experience packed into a slim volume.

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.

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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.


Add Age Suitability
Nov 28, 2014

Arjava thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


Add a Summary
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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