“The Buddha in the Attic” is about the lives of Japanese women who immigrated to the U.S. as “picture brides.” Hoping to find a better life, they instead faced hardships, including marriage to men they had never met before, homesickness, manual labor, racial prejudice, and estrangement from their American-born children.
“Their story is finding a wider audience,” Otsuka said. “It’s really been kind of my life’s work as a writer to tell the story of my people. Very few people know about what happened to them, especially during World War II.”
In her acceptance speech, the New York-based author expressed hope that her book will increase awareness in Europe about the Japanese American experience.
The critically acclaimed “Buddha in the Attic” won the PEN/Faulkner Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Otsuka is also known for her first novel, “When the Emperor Was Divine.”
The literary prize was established in 1904 as an alternative to the Prix Goncourt, which at the time was unlikely to be given to women writers. An all-female jury selects the winners, who can be women or men. Foreign works are awarded the Prix Femina Étranger.
French author Patrick Deville received the Prix Femina for “Plague and Cholera,” a novel about Alexandre Yersin, the French-Swiss doctor who discovered the bacillus that causes bubonic plague.