Makes Me Want To: Read Otsuka’s first book, When the Emperor was Divine
Quick Take: Otsuka’s novella shares the experiences of Japanese picture brides, women who immigrated to the United States in the early 20th century to marry Japanese men.
My Thoughts: Otsuka uses first person plural narration, a rare narrative device that works wonderfully. She begins the story on the boat from Japan and the final chapter covers the forced relocation to internment camps during WWII.
I loved Otsuka’s prose. It’s evocative and lyrical. This is from the first chapter, when the picture brides are on the boat and some have left daughters behind in Japan:
We wept for her every night for many nights in a row and then one morning we woke up and dried our eyes and said “that’s enough,” and began to think of other things…Because we were on the boat now, the past was behind us, and there was no going back (12).
Others had ended affairs with married men, knowing there was no happy ending, but also knowing “we would do it all over in an instant, because being with him was like being alive for the very first time, only better” (16).
I can see why the novella is being added to curricula and reading lists. It’s powerful and compelling; a quick read, but one that lingers with you after you’ve finished the last page.