Julie Otsuka's The Buddha In the Attic: "B" Letterform | Skillshare Projects



Julie Otsuka's The Buddha In the Attic: "B" Letterform

I had a really tough time choosing a book (I'm sort of bad at the favorites game, especially if I'm supposed to pick a classic), so I ended up going with what I just finished this afternoon -- Julie Otsuka's The Buddha in the Attic, which centers on a group of women who emigrate from Japan in the 1920s as "picture brides," only to be interned at the start of WWII. The prose was so gorgeous and inspiring, and the story was poignant in the way that true and awful things are.

Unfortunately lined paper (in the form of a Moomins-themed notebook, natch), was all I had on hand, but here's what I've come up with preliminarily: 

Sideways, but hopefully you get the idea.

Moving on: here are some more coherent sketches, on which I'd love your feedback! The book unfolds through the voice of a collective "we," the group of women who we follow as Japanese picture-brides (mail order brides) coming to California. Initially, they're on the roiling seas in steerage; then, they reach San Francisco, only to experience dramatic and earth-shattering things. Men abuse them and love them, they find jobs as maids or field workers, they give birth to children who die and thrive, and they pine for home. This is a novel of extremes, in which women experience profoundly different things but are united by their sense of homesickness, suffering, and resilience.

After perusing some traditional Japanese art, I was inspired by the famous painting The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai. It seemed to embody the turmoil this group of women faced, during their literal journey across the ocean and during the rest of their days as American immigrants.

That didn't really seem to put enough emphasis on the letter itself, though, so I tried to move everything within the B:

Next, I tried to follow the inspiration of cherry blossoms, another classic Japanese symbol of feminity, grace, and beauty.

Still, I felt that, in this case as with the last, the eye might be drawn away from the letter itself, towards the images around it. Thoughts? Here's an amended version, too. The cherry blossoms will have more detail in the final version, and will be filled in with the color pink:

I really liked the shape of the one above, so I tried a few variants incorporating the Japanese flag. In the book, the women mention that it's strange to them how Americans consider white the opposite of black, when in Japan, the color red is black's opposite. The Japanese flag has such clean, simple lines (a red circle on a white background).

I'm leaning towards the last one -- a calligraphic, graceful B with a red circle in the bottom curve. The shape of this particular B looks like a pregnant woman, in a way, which would be in keeping with the novel's themes of women as givers of life and sustenance (woah, paging Sherri Ortner). Which is your favorite?


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