What I’m Reading Wednesday

27 Mar


While walking through Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, a small poster on the wall caught my eye. It featured a picture of a Japanese woman in kimono with her face covered by a paper umbrella. Over the image were the words “The Buddha in the Attic.”

I Googled the title as soon as I was able to and discovered it’s a novel written by author Julie Otsuka, who was doing appearances and signings in Philly at that time. As soon as we returned home to the West Coast I checked out the book (released in 2011) from the library.

The premise of this novel follows a community of Japanese picture brides who immigrate to America in the early 1900s. It instantly reminded me of the novel “Honolulu” by Alan Brennert, but what makes “The Buddha in the Attic” different is how it’s written. The author tells the story in the first person plural, from the point of view of many girls and women. The stories are told in a succession of narratives that flow beautifully.

The journey of the women is told in eight chapters/sections.

“Come, Japanese” describes their backgrounds and experiences as they journey on the boat.

“First Night” explains their first wedding night with their husbands, many of whom turn out nothing like what they were expecting.

“Whites” follows the women as they try to form relationships with their bosses and neighbors.

“Babies” details giving birth to American children.

“Childbirth” shares experiences of raising Japanese American children who are ashamed of their immigrant parents.

“Traitors” follows the events post-Pearl Harbor.

“Last Day” describes the Japanese families packing up and moving out to locations unknown as a result of Executive Order 9066.

“A Disappearance” is told from the perspective of their white neighbors after they are relocated.

As I’ve stated before, I’m very passionate about learning and reading Japanese American history. My grandmother was a child in Japan during WWII who later married an American who brought her to the states in the early 1960s. I am proud of my family’s history and enjoy reading stories that shed light on what life was like for the Japanese in America during the war.

One Response to “What I’m Reading Wednesday”

  1. Amy Thomas (@GodILoveParis) April 9, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

    I thought this was such a beautiful and unique book!

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