May 26, 2012
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I have read numerous books, both fiction and non-fiction, that discuss the plight of the Japanese population in this country during World War II. The Buddha in the Attic (B) by Julie Otsuka is profound in that it chronicles the journey of these women from their first days in America to the last days spent in San Francisco.
Girls, as young as 12 or 13, are put on boats by their families, sent to America for various reasons. Some are sent for financial reasons, some for political and others for survival. They travel in steerage and suffer through a horrible passage optimistic that once on American soil their lives will improve. They are innocent and unsuspecting and totally unprepared for the reality of what their lives will actually be.
Otsuka takes the reader through the many phases of the lives of these women. First we meet the husbands who frighten and abuse them. As children are born; she depicts the hardships of motherhood as well as the hardships of childhood. Nothing is ever easy and nothing is ever what they hope for or expect.
The book is divided into eight sections that culminate at the beginning of World War II. The last sections tell of the outrageous way Japanese people, now Japanese Americans, are treated. They are suspected of spying and rounded up and sent to camps. Their lives and all they struggled to achieve are left behind to disintegrate until their existence is erased.
The Buddha in the Attic is a fast and powerful novel. Repetitive sentences leave no room for your imagination. Their purpose is clear and concise. Sentence after sentence is the same, mirroring the lives of each of these Japanese women, so few of them experienced anything positive or pleasant.
While most of us will never be tested as these women were, we can certainly understand and appreciate the power and strength they possessed. I encourage you to read this novel and welcome its message of courage and strength. It serves as a reminder of the enduring, female spirit.