Told as a collective stream of consciousness, “The Buddha in the Attic” follows Japanese mail-order brides from their passage across the seas to American soil, from their dreams to their reality, from hope to heartache.
Author Julie Otsuka writes in such a way that while we really don’t know any one character in particular, we understand each of them completely. From the moment they step off the ship clutching photographs of their young, handsome, wealthy “knights in shining armor,” we watch in horror as these girls come face-to-face with their older, homely, poor new husbands. We cry for the misery they face, toiling in the fields; and we hang our heads in despair for the treatment they receive at the hands of the American government, as well as their own spouses.
And, too, we feel the disbelief … shame, even … of the American people — in the communities where these quiet, hardworking Japanese women worked and lived and raised their families — who condoned, if not participated in, their degradation and “dismissal.”
“The Buddha in the Attic” is a chilling account, written so sparingly that we think there should be more, but also so beautifully and succinctly that we realize no other words are necessary.
Jami Carpenter is a freelance editor for Stephens Press, former host of Vegas PBS Book Club talk show and co-author of “Education in the Neon Shadow.”