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The Buddha in the Attic

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  24,089 ratings  ·  4,191 reviews
Julie Otsuka’s long-awaited follow-up to When the Emperor Was Divine is a tour de force of economy and precision, a novel that tells the story of a group of young women brought from Japan to San Francisco as “picture brides” nearly a century ago.

In eight incantatory sections, The Buddha in the Attic traces the picture brides’ extraordinary lives, from their arduous journey
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published August 23rd 2011 by Knopf (first published 2011)
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After the first chapter of this book, I thought I had hit upon a goldmine of a book and wondered how anyone dared to rate it less than 4 stars. Otsuka draws the reader in by offering up a kaleidoscope of experiences by a flock of Japanese women clustered in the ship's steerage bound for California as mail-order brides. Lest you think this is a silly book. It is not. Here is what I liked:

*Otsuka clearly has researched, read her history of Japanese emigration, interviewed obsessively to come up wi
This novella has the most lyrical prose I've read in a long, long time. It begins on a boat in the early 1900s, with dozens of young Japanese women who were being shipped to husbands in San Francisco to begin new lives. The women didn't know it yet, but they had been sold a bill of goods. They had been promised that their husbands were successful, handsome and rich, and that they would love living in America, but the truth is they would become migrant workers in California, and that the women mi ...more
Dec 03, 2013 Jason added it
Shelves: read-2012
It truly boggles the mind all of the attention this book has gotten. The premise is very simple: told in the first person plural, the stories of the women who were brought over from Japan before WW2, generally to miserable lives they had not anticipated, is related. There is no story in this book, however, as it is everyone's story. So we get every variation of where they had come from, every variation of sex for the first time with their husbands, childbirth, work, raising children, interacting ...more
In this slim, delicate, lyrical novel Julie Otsuka unflinchingly and confidently does something that really is not supposed to work for Western readers, those bred in the culture of stark individualism and raised in a society where it's traditional to expect a bright spark of individuality shining through the grey masses. After all, it's the plight of one, the quest of one, the triumph of one that appeals to us - naturally, as individual and personal portrayals appeal to our innate sense of self ...more
My father served in World War 2, Korea and Viet Nam. He never really talked too much about any of these wars. When we talked about World War 2 the only thing he said was that the American Government's treatment of Japanese Americans was one of the most shameful things we had ever done as a nation, at least in his life-time. He was sickened every time he thought of it. While he was alive, one of his good friends was another retired Colonel named Yamamoto who served with him in World War 2 and bey ...more
Otsuka's The Buddha in the Attic is a beautiful collection of short stories that I will cherish and think about for a long time. I've said it before: it's often difficult to write about things that are closest to my heart, and this one is no exception.

Told from the perspective of many picture brides sailing to San Francisco from their various hometowns in Japan during the early 1900s, Otsuka relates their dreams and fears in a constant stream of thought. When the brides finally arrive, each enco
Jen Hayes
Some of us will like the book. Some of us won't. Some of us will find the constant plural first person narrative terribly annoying, wondering if any group of people can be so cohesive and 'one' that they can always speak in unison, no matter the topic. Some of us can't wait to discuss it with our friends on Saturday. Some of us will cancel their RSVP to this week's book club because the last thing they want to do is give this book any more of their time. Some of us won't like it because the lack ...more
A lovely poemovella. Or novellem? How would one categorize this hybrid poem-novella? Whatever its genre, it is without a doubt eloquent and unforgettable. Within this slim volume the history of 20th century Issei and Nisei - first and second generation Japanese immigrants to the western hemisphere - is told by Japanese women, who must "blend into a room", who must "be present without appearing to exist." Otsuka gives these women fearless, tender, angry, sorrowful voices and dares you to not hear ...more
This short 100-page read felt to me like riding in a human river and feeling magically a part of it. Otsuka enjoins the reader to flow with the voices of Japanese women from their sea passage to San Francisco as mail-order brides in the 20s to the time of internment in camps during World War 2. Though the women voice many different responses to the challenges they faced, they go through similar stages in the transformation of their hopes and dreams to the new realities of their life in America. ...more
What a fabulous read!!! From the journey from Japan to San Francisco of Japanese mail-order brides to the onset of Japanese Americans sent off to internment camps during WWII, I was spellbound by Julie Otsuka's "The Buddha in the Attic." Narrated from first person plural and told from the POV of a group of women, this is a powerful story, for it allows the reader to see multiple perspectives yet still see the women as individuals. This would be a terrific selection for a book club.
Jul 15, 2013 Mark rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone and everyone
Recommended to Mark by: Her last one
Another Julie Otsuka, another physically beautiful book to hold, another extraordinary wrenching open of a cruel period of wartime bigotry.

This time the novel follows young women leaving Japan to come and join husbands they have never met and those first meetings from which might grow love or apathy or fear or hate. Their work lives, their struggles to come to terms with the new country, the births and deaths of their children and the way those children grow away from the ancient culture to whi
A chorus of narrators – the “we” tense – is not the easiest voice to pull off. Julie Otsuka adroitly uses the tense to great effect in her latest book, The Buddha in the Attic. It’s a searing insight into an entire community of innocent and naïve Japanese women who arrived in California after World War I, with dreams of their new American life that would soon be cruelly shattered.

Each of these women – whatever fate decrees for her – is also connected to the larger body of the sisterhood, women w
Otsuka's story of the Japanese picture brides of the early 20th century is an unusual novella, written from the perspective of the group "we", the multiple experiences of the women who came to America for a "better" life for themselves and, in some cases, to help families left behind.

The style is evocative of, perhaps, the repetition found in Native American poems and song. Here it isn't so much repetition as the format of lists of expectations, fears and experiences. Amazing. And this also mak
Jenny (Reading Envy)
When I first read the Kindle preview of this, I decided I probably wouldn't like it because it felt like a "book club book," meaning a little light for my tastes. Having actually sat down and read it, I still dislike it, but for different reasons.

The second sentence of the novel: "We had long black hair and flat wide feet and we were not very tall." This voice is not just for the set-up of the book, like I'd originally thought. No. Throughout the entire novel, Otsuka maintains this impersonal "
Dec 19, 2013 Teresa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Teresa by: Susan
As with most short stories or novellas, this almost 'prose-poem' of a book is probably best if you can read it straight through, in this case, to get the full effect of its incantatory prose. Though it's mostly told in first-person plural, it reminded me of the style of Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, another treatment where what seems like 'just' a list of things is so much more. It does what I feel literature does better than 'knowing the facts': reminding us, showing us, that behind th ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Call it 3.5 stars.
This is not so much a novel as it is a work of creative nonfiction. There are no specific characters and no real story arc, although it does progress in a roughly chronological fashion. It's written as a collective recitation, sometimes almost like an incantation, using the "we" form.

Otsuka shares the experiences of the Japanese picture brides who debarked in San Francisco in the early 1900s, following them up through the time when they were sent to the internment camps during
12/09/13 Reread for a library book group discussion. 3.5 stars

Written in Julie Otsaka's spare prose, this novel tells the story of Japanese women who traveled by ship to California as brides of men who they have never met. They carried pictures of their future husbands and a bunch of false promises. They were put to work picking fruits and vegetables, cleaning houses, and doing laundry. It was very difficult to adapt to a new country where they did not know the language. Their children o
My friend Sharon pressed this little gem into my hands on Sunday, a library book wrapped in a plastic bag, urging me to read it.
Tonight I sat down and devoured it in one sitting.
It is extraordinary, a composite story of Japanese mail order brides of the early 20th century. It is a kaleidoscope of all possiblities of their lives, told with delicacy and compassion, but not soppy sentimentality.
I guess this is one of those books that you either really like or really dislike. The novel, if you can call it that, recounts the collective experiences of a group of young Japanese women who come to California aboard a ship in the early 1900s. They plan to marry men that they only know from letters and photos, hoping for better prospects than they could expect in their native country. The novel is original and unusual because it is told from the first person plural voice ("we") and no single c ...more
Anastasia Hobbet
This is not a novel, regardless of its billing. It's a fictional documentary written in first-person plural that captures the experience of the community of Japanese women who came to the US as contract brides in the early part of the 20th century. It follows them chronologically through the first 20 years of their residency up until the incarceration of the Japanese in concentration camps during World War II. Its strength is it incantatory prose, and its success at picturing the experiences of ...more
Today was Julie Otsuka day at Jessica's house. This morning I read her amazing short story "Diem Perdidi" and cried my eyes out; I just hadn't been that moved by fiction in a long time. That story is about a woman's mother who has dementia. It's told in the second person, with the "you" being the daughter, in a very repetitive structure that follows the formula "She remembers this... She does not remember that..." throughout, to document not just the mother's decline but her entire life. It was ...more
I loved this book! At only 129 pages, it was a quick read. This book tells the story of a group of young women brought from Japan to San Francisco as "picture brides". The book traces their extraordinary lives from their journey to America by boat, to their arrival and meeting with their "husbands" who seem years older than their photographs, their first nights as new wives (many were virgins), to raising their children who would later reject their culture and language. Then the war comes and th ...more
Oct 13, 2011 Kurt rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Kurt by: Amazon Vine
This lyrical, elegant, potent book is a completely worthy follow-up to Otsuka’s first book, When the Emperor Was Divine, and may be even more emotionally powerful. It is not exactly a novel in the traditional sense, as there is no plot, simply a montage of images and simple observations about the experience of Japanese women who came to California before World War II as brides for men they had never met The images flow like a dream that gets quietly more nightmarish until the horrifying and inev ...more
Mar 06, 2012 Barbara rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Barbara by: Susan Sherwin
129 pages!!! It is amazing to me that Otsuka was able to so profoundly tell this stirring tale in so few pages.

Briefly, the book contains the stories of Japanese "picture brides", who arrived on American shores early in the 20th century, to completely alien, often forbidding atmospheres. It continues through their struggles trying to fit in, toiling, raising families and their efforts to speak a strange language. There is no single protagonist in this book. Otsuka's vivid and skillful narrative
This book conveys the experience of Japanese mail order brides promised to Japanese men who presented themselves as professional white collar living the American dream but were instead largely unrefined and laborers.

I used the word “conveys” because it doesn’t tell in the way of a story. It is more a prose poem experimenting with voice. The voice of the women as they cross the sea, meet their husbands and discover the difficult lives they face is “we”, what I’ll term the collective first person
This book was like a muffled scream. A scream that comes from the mouths of a generation. A generation, lost in time and space, of a handful of Japanese girls, women, and children who are shipped to a distant land with a distant dream. An American Dream. They were shipped from their homeland with a photograph of their husbands and a pocketful of hope for a beautiful and fulfilling life ahead: of picket fences covering a lush neatly mowed lawn in front of their wooden A-frame houses. They really ...more
Dec 20, 2011 Carol rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Carol by: Read When the Emperor Was Divine-Free Library of Philadelphia Podcast with author
Julie Otsuka could be called a woman of few words. The Buddha in the Attic comes in at under 150 pages but she can convey more in this tightly written novel than others could in a tome.

Buddha in the Attic left me breathless. From the outset when we first meet these Japanese women, some not even in their teens, leaving their homes and families, sailing away on a ship to a foreign land, clutching pictures of their husbands to be, we know this is going to be a special book. These are the Picture B
I have just finished reading this book and I'm so angry. Poetically written,it has the feel of a delicate Japanese pen drawing but talks about brutal events. It is about the Japanese immigrant experience specifically of women sent for through the mail by their future husbands. It starts in the early 1900's and continues through the beginning of World War II and the beginning of the internment of Japanese-Americans. Interestingly, there are no main characters in the book as the author Julie Otsuk ...more
Half-way through The Buddha in the Attic it seemed one of those books that you admire but don't particularly like. I appreciated Otsuka's technique, the use of the collective "we," to drive the story of Japanese "picture brides" journeying to Northern California in the 1920's. It lets her emphasize the anonymity of the women--indeed, the anonymity of any immigrant group--in their new country. And it enables her to speak in shorthand about the women's varying experiences--underlined by the common ...more
When starting this book I kept thinking "Did I read this already?" It turns out somewhere along the way I read the short story that begat the full novel. And it's a great opener. But I had a little trouble settling into the the first person plural perspective. I kept waiting for it to shift to a singular point of view, but it never did. However, I ended up liking the impact this pov had on the sense of belonging, or not belonging, the Japanese had in their American communities. The "we", "us", a ...more
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  • I Hotel
  • This Burns My Heart
  • Shards
  • The Calligrapher's Daughter
  • Wingshooters
  • The Submission
  • Please Look After Mom
  • Emily, Alone
  • All Woman and Springtime
  • Changó's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes
  • Beyond the Blossoming Fields
  • The Painter From Shanghai
  • The Vagrants
Julie Otsuka was born and raised in California. After studying art as an undergraduate at Yale University she pursued a career as a painter for several years before turning to fiction writing at age 30. She received her MFA from Columbia. She is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Asian American Literary Award, and the American Library Association Alex Award.

Her first novel, When the Empe
More about Julie Otsuka...
When the Emperor Was Divine Venivamo tutte per mare - Assaggi d'autore gratuiti: Ebook gratis: 2 capitoli in anteprima Whites Granta 115: The F Word Svenska Granta 1: Gränser

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“Women are weak, but mothers are strong.” 16 likes
“We lost weight and grew thin. We stopped bleeding. We stopped dreaming. We stopped wanting.” 9 likes
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