Check It Out: Buddha in the Attic

Apr 11, 2017

Today, I’m recommending, the beautifully poetic and award-winning book, Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otuska.

It is the story of a generation of Japanese war brides who leave behind everything they’ve ever known in the hopes of finding a better life in America by marrying men who they’ve only seen in photos and heard from in a handful of letters, promising them good jobs, large houses, and plentiful bounty.

The women carry these pictures with them as they begin their arduous journey across the Pacific, all the while wondering if the trip will be worth it, and whether or not they’ve made the right decision to marry men they don’t really know.

Written from the perspective of the brides sailing to San Francisco from Japan during the early 1900s, Otuska skillfully relates their dreams and fears through a constant stream of thought writing style. When the brides finally arrive, each encounters a different reality than what they had been promised.

To say that life is hard for these women is an understatement. Throughout the book the reader follow these characters through the early years of their marriages, the child rearing years, the endless work that consumes their daily lives, culminating with the onset of World War II and the months leading up to the internment of all citizens of Japanese heritage.

Otuska gives these women fearless, tender, angry, sorrowful voices, and it is heart breaking to read about their fear and uncertainty they feel while being forced from the homes they strives so long and hard to build.

In just 144 pages, Otuska powerfully writes about an entire generation of Americans who were all but erased. Finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the 2012 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, Buddha in the Attic could easily be considered a vital read for anyone wanting to explore other cultures in the American historical tapestry.

Check out Buddha in the Attic and other moving works of fiction like it at the Sioux City Public Library

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Support for Check It Out comes from Avery Brothers.