The Buddha in the Attic (Pen/Faulkner Award - Fiction)
by Julie Otsuka
Paperback- $8.86

Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award For Fiction
National Book Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist
A New York Times Notable Book

A ...

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  "The Buddha in the Attic" by kdangle17 (see profile) 10/21/11

I didn't care for the author's style of writing. I was expecting something different in story line and writing style. I found the lengthy listings of all the different expectations a group of people may have had for coming to America, the lengthy paragraphs of how they left their homes, happy, sad, proud, not looking back, etc. becoming monotonous. I couldn't wait to move forward.

  "Buddha in the Attic" by Frango (see profile) 01/13/12

Beautifully written story of a time in American history that is not well known. Her writing is poetic and how she can get so much information out in so few words is phenomenal. It's a fantastic story and I hope to read other things by this talented author

  "A Different Style" by mindysauve (see profile) 07/27/12

Our club gave this book an overall rating of 3 out of 5 stars, but I personally enjoyed it a lot. The writing style is first person plural which most of our members had difficulty with because they couldn't connect with any of the characters, because there were not singular characters and no linear story line. I thought it was beautifully written and it garnered some intersting discussion from our members. After I finished this book, I read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which was a nice follow-on to this book and did have characters and a story line that people can connect with.

  "Poetic and haunting" by vnesting (see profile) 08/07/12

Otsuko's use of the first person plural voice is poetic and haunting. The ghosts of these picture brides will remain with you long after you finish reading this slim volume.

  "Style gets old" by hopewellmomschool (see profile) 08/28/12

A unique style of writing brings this book much of it's attention. Sadly, that style gets annoying pretty fast. The story itself is well worth it. This will likely come up in Women's Studies classes in a few years.

  "Critical History" by rowchick (see profile) 08/29/12

Being of Japanese descent, I am always amazed at how little Americans know about the Japanese being sent to Internment Camps during WWII. This book takes that critical history lesson one step further and, in the format of what is really an epic poem, gives the reader a background of the journey to America and the struggle to adapt and make a life leading up to the Camps that took all of that away.

  "The Buddha in the Attic" by Bookbods (see profile) 10/01/12

I really liked it but did not love it, its a great choice for Hawaii\

  "The Buddha In The Attic" by thewanderingjew (see profile) 02/21/13

Although it was sometimes hard to read because the information kept coming at me in short, almost rhythmic bursts of thought, attacking my brain with bullets of information, it was actually an amazing read because after 129 pages, I not only felt that I knew about the history of the Japanese women who were lured to America by Japanese men who deceived them, but I also knew how they were treated on board the boats that brought them here, how they survived the journey, and how they were treated in America by other Japanese, by other immigrants and by Americans. In short, in so few pages, the author has done a monumental job of informing the reader about a scar on our past that cannot be erased.
The short sentences spoke volumes. I felt the power of the storyteller’s words; I occupied her thoughts. I understood the plight of the mail-order brides, experienced what they must endure and would continue to endure for the rest of their lives. Beautifully written, lyrical at times, with some rare moments of subtle wit, the mostly sad revelations come to life in short, simple sentences that were easy to grasp, and yet were filled with deep emotion. Sometimes, the seemingly random thoughts felt almost rambling, but they coalesced and presented an amazing final picture of what it was like for these women, now sentenced to a life in America, far different from what they had hoped for and expected.
I learned how the Japanese lived, what they dreamed, where they originally came from, what they hoped for, how old they were, how pure, how abused, how they bore their grief, their hardships, their exhaustion, their poverty, their small joys and their long working days. I watched them bear it all quietly, with dignity. They wrote letters home filled with news about a life of fantasy because they could never return to Japan. Their failure would bring shame to their families.
Although they raised their children strictly, in the ways of the old world, the children became more Americanized than Japanese; they became ashamed of their parents and their impoverished circumstances. They were unable to escape the financial failures of their lives.
Then came the war, and all that they worked for was suddenly meaningless. They were rounded up and quietly sent away to internment camps. Few questioned that rationale. The Japanese simply came and then went, and life went on as if they never were; they were not remembered. In so few pages, this amazing novel, tells it all. As it presents a sharp snapshot of their efforts and their history, we come to understand how nobly they suffered.
This brief book is a tale about love and hate, acceptance and prejudice, joy and sadness, hope and hopelessness, exceptional kindness and exceptional cruelty. It is about longing, disappointment, deception, exhaustion, treachery and ignorance. The final message may be that friends can become enemies, in a flash, and sympathizing with friends, who are now considered enemies, can make the sympathizer the enemy too. Fear is a dangerous and powerful weapon. It worked, and soon, all memory and traces of the Japanese in J-town were gone.
It is a heart wrenching story about naïve Japanese girls and women, who were led down the garden path, who came to America thinking they would find handsome, literate and successful husbands, only to find out the pictures of their spouses were old, and so too were the men. The letters were written by professionals with the intent to deceive them and convince them to come, but this was not the fairy tale they hoped for and they were not all going to be happy. Their lives were going to be filled with struggle and hardship, but they were proud and noble and quietly accepted their nightmare and not their dream.

  "The Buddha in the Attic" by Neyly (see profile) 05/14/13

Lovely writing.

  "The Buddha in the Attic" by sdr922 (see profile) 07/11/13

  "Spare but luminously written" by FTessa (see profile) 08/06/13

In this spare but luminously written novel, Otsuka tells the story of young women who came to America from Japan as “picture brides” in the early 1900s. Through the course of the novel she traces the lives of these immigrants from their journey by boat, to their arrival in San Francisco, their first nights as new wives, their hardships working in unaccustomed ways, their experiences raising children, their relief and pride in building a new life in a new land, and finally to the arrival of war and the loss of what they had built as they were sent with their families to internment camps.

Otsuka won the Pen Faulkner Award for Fiction for this book. She writes mostly in a first person plural voice, using short simple sentences: On the boat we were mostly virgins. We had long black hair and flat wide feet and we were not very tall.
They gave us new names. They called us Helen or Lily.
We gave birth to babies that were so beautiful we could not believe they were ours. We gave birth to babies with colic.
In this way the story is about everyone, or anyone, or no one. Yet it is strongly evocative of time and place, and has an aura of immediacy about it. The reader feels the hopes, sorrows, disappointments, joys, fears, anguish, love, puzzlement, and pride along with these nameless women.

I’ve read other novels that dealt with the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas and Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet are two examples. But this novel and Otsuka’s previous work, When the Emperor Was Divine, are special in the way she conveys the thoughts and feelings of the Japanese themselves.

Highly recommended.

  "The Buddha in the Attic" by alteryoga (see profile) 11/14/13

  "Buddha in the Attic" by dsylvia (see profile) 11/14/13

Although the book is around 200 pages, it is dense and lyrically written. The author's communal voice of "Some of us" throughout most of the novel is unique and very appropriate for her subject of young Japanese picture brides and their eventual banishment to internment camps in the U.S. during WW II..

  "The Buddha in the Attic" by paintbabe (see profile) 11/15/13

Beautifully written. Poetic. Haunting. The story of Japanese picture brides coming to America and what they experience living here. Small book that manages to pack in a lot of information. Written in an interesting style.

  "Short novel packs a punch" by mbell7 (see profile) 02/26/14

Our book club ran the gamut in reacting to this book, which is written in the first-person plural telling the story of the Japanese "picture brides" who came to the United States in the early 20th century, lived in or near San Francisco, and dealt with prejudice and pain. The style of the book is really different; that and the immigrant experience or being the "other" and thought of as a group instead of an individual kept our group talking quite awhile. It's a short book, but very meaty.

  "The Buddha in the Attic" by GailKerg (see profile) 04/01/14

Although I found listening to this book to be a little repetitive, it really made a good discussion book, as the conversation was lively and touched on many subjects that came up during the story.

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  "Many Stories, Not One Tale" by [email protected] (see profile) 06/05/15

Our book club was split as to liking the writing style and book (most liked it). This book does NOT have a storyline with main characters. It is the description of many characters and a timeline of Japaneese brides coming to California, their struggles, children, and internment camp. I hated the writing style (just descriptives of many people, actions or experiences), but some in our book club loved it. It was a book that brought a lively discussion on Japaneese internment camps and the struggle of these brides.

  "Unique narration technique" by kffcmf (see profile) 06/05/15

The author uses the first person plural to poetically and effectively communicate the varied yet cohesive experience of an entire population of Japanese immigrant women. Well done!

  "Buddha in the attic" by rnns1999 (see profile) 06/05/15

I enjoyed the book overall but preferred the hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet with the same topic. My book group liked this one as well

  "" by pauline (see profile) 06/27/15

Very unusual narrative structure--to have a collective narrative. I found it effective--some members had trouble becoming absorbed into the story.

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  "Buddha In The Attic" by jkptrixie (see profile) 01/06/17

A lovely, poetic, thought provoking short read about the Japanese mail order brides...Couldn't put it down, cried during a great deal of it and read it again after I finished to be sure I didn't miss any of the story....

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