“The Buddha in the Attic”

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Julie Otsuka’s “The Buddha in the Attic” was published in 2011.  This small book in size and length is a wonderful picture of the life of Japanese picture brides.  Beginning in the early years of the twentieth century, Otsuka poignantly captured the anxiety and anticipation of young Japanese women who were sailing to San Francisco to meet their future husbands.  These women were given pictures of the men they would marry by their Japanese matchmakers.  The pictures and information about these men were for the most part fiction.  They weren’t young and well-off, but much older and field workers or fishermen.  In spite of their disappointment, these women stayed with these men, slept with them, bore their children, and worked side-by side with them in the fields and at sea.

“The Buddha in the Attic” follows these women from their first days at sea to the beginning of WWII.  Julie Otsuka weaves her extensive research of this period with a real understanding of Japanese culture.  Written as almost a litany of experiences, Otsuka was able to capture the despair, loneliness, and inner strength that helped these women survive.

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