The Buddah in the Attic by Julie Otsuka is a heartbreaking rendition of the story of the thousands of Japanese war brides who came to America in the early part of the twentieth century. Set between World Wars One and Two, the narrative is in the collective first person, which makes it feel very personal as well as more inclusive. I was drawn in from the first sentence and felt connected to the women in the story, sold into marriage away from their families, heading away to a new life in a new world.
As the story progresses we watch them endure a terrible journey only to find that many of their husbands are not who they pretended to be at all. We learn of the hardship as they built lives and families in their new country only to find it all taken away when Japan attacks Pearl Harbour in World War 2.
At less than 130 pages, The Buddah in the Attic is one of the shortest novels I have read in a long time, but this haunting tale will remain with me for many years to come. After I finished it I felt compelled to learn more about the internment of Japanese Americans in World War 2.
I prefer the books I read to have happy endings, and The Buddah in the Attic does not. However I am very glad I read this lyrical, nuanced and compelling tribute to the young Japanese war brides who played a very important role in the evolution of American culture and of America itself.