The Buddha in the Attic

Julie Otsuka

Fiction 2011 | 129 pages

four-hearts

This is a novella, told in a mesmerizing, emotional, powerful way ... with no characters or plot.  Huh?

The story of Japanese brides shipped to the US In the early 1900s, Buddha in the Attic is told in "first person singular," which can be hard to wrap your head around.  Most of the sentences begin with "they" or "we" or "one of us" or "some of us."  Here is a short, edited excerpt to demonstrate the writing style.  It is from one of eight chapters.  This chapter is titled "Babies."

"We gave birth under oak trees in the summer, in 113-degree heat. We gave birth besides wood stoves in one-room shacks on the coldest nights of the year .... We gave birth in Rialto by the light of a kerosene lantern on top of an old silk quilt we had brought over with us on our trunk from Japan ... We gave birth in towns where no doctor would see us, and we washed out the afterbirth ourselves ... We gave birth with the help of the fish-seller's wife ..."

Officially categorized as fiction, I might call it historical fiction or creative nonfiction.  While no one person's story is told, the panoply of stories is remarkable.

This short book will touch your heart and easily teach you much about the dreams and challenges of being Japanese in America before and during WWll.  It is a quick afternoon's read, and I do recommend it, for the lyrical style as well as the content, and the education.

Besides, who can resist a book whose opening line is, "On the boat we were mostly virgins."

April 2022

 

 

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