Why I recommend this book:
This slim novel is a stunning artistic achievement. Julie Otsuka offers prose that acts like poetry, and the language of the book is lyrical and a kind of litany. She tells the story of Japanese women who were brought to the U.S. in the early 20th century to marry Japanese men who had already emigrated to the U.S. for jobs, mostly menial labor. While our mental and physical images of immigrants in the U.S. are often unitary and stereotyped, this book drove home the incredible diversity among these Japanese immigrants. It begins with the young women on the ocean passage, sharing and comparing with each other their photographs of the men waiting for them to arrive and marry, photographs that turn out to be, for the most part, seriously out of date or simply fictional. The story follows them through the first night with their husbands, the birth and raising of their children, their own induction into the U.S. labor force, their experience with U.S. racism and xenophobia, and finally, the book ends as many were hauled off to the internment camps of World War II. It is a remarkable book, a fast read, haunting, and an occasion for spiritual growth in understanding our common humanity, both exalted and base. I recommend it highly.