I finally checked off a book I had on my summer nightstand, from last summer. While we were in the Dominican Republic, I finally read The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka. I wish I had brought another book along for our 10-day stay because I finished it by our second day… no kidding. The book is not very long and it is indeed that good.
I actually didn’t know anything about the book before I read it other than it was about Japanese women (the cover may have helped with that!) But what I was not expecting was multiple narratives woven into one collective voice brought to life by the author. Otsuka writes of Japanese women brought to America in the early 20th century (as “picture brides”) and their lives that follow. It is the beautiful marriage of the individual and collective that made the book so memorable and compelling for me. She writes that “we” did this, that and the other… this happened to “us”, etc. Not only was it an unorthodox approach to traditional form, but her approach allowed for each character’s individual story of love, injustice, and emotions to be experienced on a personal level while speaking to the collective emotional experience of a marginalized group. When it happened to one character it happened to all of them, including the author. I really liked how it read like an autobiography, but one of a generation of women in one clear voice. Highly Recommended.