Wilton Reads Fall 2012: The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka — Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road Wilton, CT 06897 Tel: 203-762-3950

Wilton Reads Fall 2012: The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

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We encourage all community members to join us this fall as we come together to read, discuss and reflect upon The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka. Wilton Reads has, for several years, given us an opportunity through fine literature to sharpen our view of ourselves and the world around us. Julie Otsuka has (once again) written a spellbinding novel about identity and loyalty, and what it means to be an American in uncertain times.

The Buddha in the Attic is a gorgeous novel by the celebrated author of When the Emperor Was Divine that tells the story of a group of young women brought from Japan to San Francisco as “picture brides” nearly a century ago. In eight unforgettable sections, The Buddha in the Attic traces the extraordinary lives of these women, from their arduous journeys by boat, to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new wives; from their experiences raising children who would later reject their culture and language, to the deracinating arrival of war.

In recognition of her exemplary contributions to contemporary literature, Ms. Otsuka will become the fourth recipient of Wilton Library’s Grodin Family Fine Writers Award when she arrives to speak to us on October 21st.

Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award For Fiction
National Book Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist
A New York Times Notable Book

What do the critics have to say?

“Otsuka’s incantatory style pulls her prose close to poetry. . . . Filled with evocative descriptive sketches…and hesitantly revelatory confessions.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Precise, focused. . . . Penetrating. . . . See it and you’ll want to pick it up. Start reading it and you won’t want to put it down. . . . A boldly imagined work that takes a stylistic risk more daring and exciting than many brawnier books five times its size. Even the subject matter is daring. . . . Specific, clear, multitudinous in its grasp and subtly emotional.” —The Huffington Post

“Spare and stunning. . . . By using the collective ‘we’ to convey a constantly shifting, strongly held group identity within which distinct individuals occasionally emerge and recede, Otsuka has created a tableau as intricate as the pen strokes her humble immigrant girls learned to use in letters to loved ones they’d never see again.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

“A lovely prose poem that gives a bitter history lesson.” — Kirkus Reviews

Otsuka’s prose is precise and rich with imagery. Readers will be inspired to draw their own parallels between the experiences of these women and the modern experience of immigration. By the time readers realize that the story is headed toward the internment of the Japanese, they are hopelessly engaged and will finish this exceptional book profoundly moved.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A luminous second novel . . . Otsuka works an enchantment upon her readers . . . and leaves us haunted and astonished at the powers of her subtlety and charms. . . . Unforgettable.” —Margaret Heilbrun, Library Journal (starred review)

“An incantatory and haunting group portrait . . . Drawing on extensive research and profoundly identifying with her characters, Otsuka crafts an intricately detailed folding screen depicting nearly five decades of change as the women painstakingly build meaningful lives, only to lose everything after Pearl Harbor. This lyrically distilled and caustically ironic story of exile, effort, and hate is entrancing, appalling, and heartbreakingly beautiful.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)

Please note the following important dates for Wilton Reads 2012:

Day Date Time Description
Thursday September 13th 10 am until
they’re gone
Distribution of 100 free books* (1 per person, please)
Wednesday October 3rd 7 to 8:30 pm Discussion of The Buddha in the Attic with Susan Boyar (register now)
Tuesday October 9th 10:30 am to noon Discussion of The Buddha in the Attic with Joanna Ecke (register now)
Sunday October 21st 4 to 6 pm Author appearance: Julie Otsuka (register now)

*thanks to the Grodin Family Fine Writers Fund

If you’re a member of a book discussion group, please tell your fellow book group members about what we’ve got in store. We’ve purchased extra copies of The Buddha in the Attic for you to borrow, and have large print and CD versions of the book, too. You can reserve any of these versions online or by phone and have them waiting for you at the front desk or the drive-up window on Godfrey Place.

Wilton Magazine is the media sponsor for Wilton Reads 2012

Want to learn more about the author and novel? Explore these sites:

Book groups may find the Reading Group Guide for The Buddha in the Attic particularly helpful with a brief biography of the author and twenty-three discussion-starting questions.

The Lit Lovers site has pretty much the same discussion questions, but adds a summary, interesting information about the author, and some reviews.

A New York Times review contains more insights.