Tuesday, July 31, 2012
30B430 Book 24: The Buddha in the Attic
I grabbed a bunch of new books from my mom a few weeks ago, and jumped right in to The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka. I had heard of the author's other book,When the Emperor Was Divine, but had yet to read either book.
The Buddha in the Attic shares the collective stories of a group of Japanese immigrants who came to the United States in the early 1900s. The story is told through the eyes of "picture brides," women who left Japan with a photo of their Japanese husband, whom they were to meet in America. It starts with their life on the ship, and the details their "wedding night," their life with their husbands that is far from what they were promised in letters, and raising children who are first generation Americans. As the war breaks out, Otsuka shares the fear and dread as they are ordered to evacuate and prepare to leave, with no idea where they are going. She hints at, but does not detail the womens' lives in the Japanese internment camps, which I believe was the focus of her earlier book.
What was most interesting about the story, was Otsuka's use of the collective "we" throughout the novel. There are no main characters, although every once in awhile, there are names. The theme of identity is huge in the book: questioning identity, maintaining identity, losing identity. Her writing is beautiful and heartbreaking, especially reading about the discrimination and justice issues that are an often overlooked part of our country's history.
I would definitely recommend this book. It is a super fast read, at just 127 pages. You won't want to put it down.