The Buddha in the Attic

by Julie Otsuka

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How does Julie Otsuka explore the theme of diaspora and the struggles of settling in America in The Buddha in the Attic?

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In The Buddha in the Attic, Otsuka's use of a diasporic perspective to explore the experience of leaving one's homeland shows how complex and painful it can be. The picture brides leave Japan hoping for a wonderful new life, only to find a life of hardship and discrimination in the United States.

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In The Buddha in the Attic, Julie Otsuka uses a diasporic perspective to explore how painful it is to leave one's homeland. To understand how Otsuka explores this theme, it is first important to understand what it means to view homeland from a diasporic perspective. A diaspora a community which has been displaced from one geographical or cultural region. Displacement is often abrupt and painful and can lead to intergenerational trauma. People who feel displaced from their homeland either directly or through ancestral displacement often struggle with defining their personal and cultural identities. When authors explore the theme of homeland from a diasporic perspective (as they often do in postcolonial literature), they examine how diasporas play a role in people's relationships with themselves, others, and with their new home.

In The Buddha in the Attic, Otsuka explores the experiences of Japanese picture brides in the early twentieth century. In this era, matchmakers would pair Japanese men in the United States with single Japanese women who were seeking husbands. Once a couple was paired, the women would leave Japan to be with her husband in the States. The men rarely looked the way they did in their pictures though, and life in America ended up being extremely difficult for the women. Yet the women relied on the men to teach them about American culture. Their Japanese husbands were their only link to their home, and their memories and shared knowledge of their homeland became an integral part of their relationships, even when the men treated them poorly. When World War II, came they had to burn any connection to Japan to stay safe in a society that had turned against them. This experience was incredibly painful and made them feel farther away from their true home.

Through the experiences of these women, Otsuka explores the complexities of the immigrant experience, particularly those pursuing the American dream. She shows how many immigrants leave their homeland behind forever because of the socially constructed promise that anything is possible in America. But this is an unrealistic dream, and the women end up feeling like unwanted outsiders in their new home and more disconnected from ever from their true home.

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