The setup of this book was unique in that there was no set cast of characters. Otsuka tells the story of what it was like for young Japanese women who came to America as “picture brides” early in the 20th century. She traces their journey by boat and recounts what it was like to emerge in a new world with a new life – meeting a husband you’d only exchanged letters and pictures with (and these were, more often than not, falsified by “matchmakers”) and entering a new land as an “other.”
Otsuka takes the reader from this first step in America through the changing landscape of the American mindset towards the Japanese – we see the typical working conditions, we watch as American-born children are raised with a different understanding of life than their parents, and we are exposed to the changing levels of acceptance after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The book begins with the arrival of young brides and ends with families forced into internment camps. All of this is told through the experiences of this group of Japanese brides.
It took a little while for me to get into the writing style of this book but I quickly came to appreciate it. You get such a feel for the time period and this does a great job on conveying the history of Japanese immigrants in America. I’m curious to check out Otsuka’s first novel, When the Emperor was Divine, now that I’ve finished The Buddha in the Attic. I really enjoyed this title.