The voice of diversity: Picture brides and masked individuality in Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic

Emily Yu Zong*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Abstract

Julie Otsuka’s 2011 novel The Buddha in the Attic politicizes the first-person plural “we” narration to recuperate the silenced voices of Japanese American picture brides. The novel’s unconventional narrative style, however, has been criticized for reducing picture brides to “lists” and reproducing stories that deprive Japanese Americans of individuality. This article examines how Otsuka’s use of the “we” narration and self-mimicry locates Japanese American femininity and agency at the historical confluence of imperialist and assimilationist dynamics. It contends that the novel’s stylistics make visible not only a collective minority consciousness, but also the complex subjectivity of picture brides in a transnational space of diasporic negotiation, social masking, and situational coalition. In doing so, the novel questions not only a lack of individuality, but individuality itself. That is, it demonstrates how ethnic and diasporic literature can ethically comment on a universal notion of political individuality and revise it with multiple and contingent perspectives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)841-855
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Postcolonial Writing
Volume57
Issue number6
Early online date25 Aug 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2021

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory

User-Defined Keywords

  • individuality
  • Japanese American
  • Julie Otsuka
  • picture brides
  • self-mimicry
  • “we” narration

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