"And we knew it would only be a matter of time until all traces of us were gone": Julie Otsuka and the Japanese-American internment during World War II

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In her two novels When the Emperor Was Divine (2002) and The Buddha in the Attic (2011), Julie Otsuka explores the experiences of Japanese immigrants in the US before and during World War II.  In this paper, her works are considered as narratives of cultural remembrance employing certain motifs that articulate the experience of ‘relocation,’ or internment, of Japanese Americans during the war. The paper argues that the tropes of disintegration, guilt, imprisonment and dislocation are critical to Otsuka’s representation of the internment.  Furthermore, these tropes are most significantly mediated through gender and narrative perspective. The collective point of view, used partly in When the Emperor was Divine and throughout The Buddha in the Attic, resonates with Otsuka’s conception of the Japanese as a “communal people” allowing her to “tell everyone’s story.” This notion forms part of my examination of how the collective voice underscores the themes of collective remembrance and social critique.    

Finally, the paper considers When the Emperor was Divine and The Buddha in the Attic in relation to Anne Whitehead’s observation (in Memory 2009:14) that “forgetting […] shapes and defines the very contours of what is recalled and preserved; what is transmitted as remembrance from one generation to the next.” Otsuka’s texts are regarded as memory work revolving around the tension between remembrance and forgetting. Silence and forgetting are a significant part of the practices of remembrance of the Japanese-American internment, suggesting the simultaneous resilience and vulnerability of the Japanese Americans.

OriginalspråkEngelska
StatusPublicerad - 2013
EvenemangNordic Association of American Studies (NAAS), Currents and Countercurrents, Karlstad University, May 24 – 26, 2013. -
Varaktighet: 1980-jan-01 → …

Konferens

KonferensNordic Association of American Studies (NAAS), Currents and Countercurrents, Karlstad University, May 24 – 26, 2013.
Period80-01-01 → …

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