The experiences of the Japanese diaspora are set out in considerable detail by Julie Otsuka in The Buddha in the Attic . Although we are introduced to a number of different characters, each one giving their own unique take on the immigrant experience, it is possible to observe a certain...
The experiences of the Japanese diaspora are set out in considerable detail by Julie Otsuka in The Buddha in the Attic. Although we are introduced to a number of different characters, each one giving their own unique take on the immigrant experience, it is possible to observe a certain pattern emerging from their stories. This allows Otsuka to make general observations about the Japanese diaspora and the many challenges that it faced.
One such challenge, perhaps even the biggest challenge faced by the book's characters, concerns the difficulties of assimilating into American society while retaining their cultural and ethnic identity. This is made all the more difficult by the widespread prejudice and racism that the Japanese brides face in white American society.
What makes adapting to American life all the more frustrating is the fact that the women are expected to perform back-breaking toil in the fields, just as they would do back in Japan. To make the transition from living in Japan to living in the United States as smooth as possible, the Japanese diasporic community has created its own mini Japan, complete with age-old practices and clearly defined gender roles.
Combined with the persistent racism and prejudice of white American society, this cultural isolation has made it hard for the diasporic community, especially its womenfolk, to assimilate into American society. What makes things worse for the Japanese women in the story is that they genuinely want to fit in and be accepted, to have the same privileges as the white women they encounter.
And yet, at the same time, the community becomes susceptible to official wartime propaganda, which leads them to suspect their own people of being fifth columnists and traitors. The irony here is that total assimilation would've made no difference whatsoever; Japanese Americans would still have been persecuted anyway.
In The Buddha in the Attic, Julie Otsuka gives us a complex, multi-faceted view of the Japanese diaspora, which at the same time speaks to the experiences of millions of immigrants down through the ages, wherever they come from.