Paperback review: The Buddha in the Attic, By Julie Otsuka


Julie Otsuka based her chorus of young Japanese women emigrating to the United States on the real-life recollections of those who left their homes as girls to marry strangers, and the authenticity of her story is indebted to those memories.

The mostly teenage girls have only photographs of their intendeds as they sail across the ocean, and most are disappointed by the faces that greet them when they arrive. A life of toil in the fields, or serving rich households awaits, but Otsuka also shows a generation adapting to new soil, giving birth to children who will grow up American, and the shock that comes when Pearl Harbor forces America into the war and Japanese families are interned. This is the story of the immigrant experience, but it is also the story of the powerless: these women have no rights, no authority, no voice.