For Release: Immediately
Department of External Affairs
Free Library of Philadelphia
1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710
FAX (215) 567-7850
Contact: Communications and Development
For Release: Immediately
Contact: Communications and Development


 PHILADELPHIA, January 17, 2013—The Free Library of Philadelphia kicked off the 11th season of its annual One Book, One Philadelphia program on January 17 at the Parkway Central Library with special guest Julie Otsuka, author of the 2013 featured reading selection, The Buddha in the Attic.

The evening began with opening remarks by Free Library of Philadelphia President and Director Siobhan A. Reardon, who invited Tobey Dichter, Chair of the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation Board of Directors, to speak. Dichter recognized the sponsors of this year’s program, including lead sponsor Walmart and primary sponsors the Field Foundation, the Lenfest Foundation, and PECO.

 “As in previous years, One Book, One Philadelphia will offer a rich variety of programming, with a focus this season on the understanding and appreciation of Japanese culture, the troublesome legacy of World War II internment camps, and the common struggles of immigrants—particularly young women—in a new and at-times unwelcoming place,” said Reardon.  “We encourage everyone in Philadelphia to read The Buddha in the Attic, join in the conversation, and participate in as many of the wonderful One Book events as possible.”

 In addition to a special appearance by Otsuka, the Distant Voices Touring Theatre presented a dramatic reading and performance based on the diary of a Japanese American internee in the camps of World War II, which was underscored throughout with selections from traditional Japanese folk songs and music from 19th- and 20th-century composers. Additionally, audience members enjoyed a performance of an original music composition that was inspired by The Buddha in the Attic and written by Riho Maimets, a student at the Curtis Institute of Music.

 Tonight’s event was just one of more than 100 engaging, entertaining, and educational One Book programs that will take place through March 13. Book discussions; origami workshops; political and historical presentations; and film screenings and discussions are just some of the wide variety of events offered in One Book, One Philadelphia’s 11th season. 


Winner of the 2012 PEN/Faulkner Award, The Buddha in the Attic illuminates the poignant, powerful stories of Japanese “picture brides” who came to the United States during the early 1900s. Otsuka has crafted first-person plural voices that capture their collective and individual experiences as wives, mothers, breadwinners, and marginalized members of American society during both peacetime and the onset of World War II. Threaded with connections to the enduring strength of women and to Japan’s rich heritage, this novel confronts the challenges of shaping one’s identity within the confines of an unfamiliar, often unfriendly, and sometimes hostile culture.

 Companion books for teens and children are also a part of the program. The middle-grade companion book, Journey to Topaz by Yoshiko Uchida, is based on the author’s personal experiences and tells the story of 11-year-old Yuki, who is forced with her family to live in Topaz, a Japanese American internment camp in an isolated Utah desert. The children’s companion book is A Place Where Sunflowers Grow, written by Amy Lee-Tai and illustrated by Felicia Hoshino. The setting of Topaz is repeated in this picture book, in which young Mari feels as small as the sunflower seeds she plants in the blazing hot and dusty internment camp. It is hard to imagine that anything will grow here. But from the encouragement of her family and inspiration from her art teacher, Mari learns that hope can blossom in the bleakest of surroundings.

 The One Book website at is devoted to more resources, including downloadable discussion guides, recommended reading lists, event calendars, and more.

 Additional One Book sponsors include Stradley Ronon Stevens and Young, LLP and Pepper Hamilton, LLP. One Book media partners include WHYY, Philadelphia City Paper, Harmelin Media, and Keystone Outdoor. Generous assistance in planning this year’s One Book, One Philadelphia program was provided by the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League.


About the Author

Born in Palo Alto, California, Julie Otsuka studied art at Yale University. Her first novel, When the Emperor was Divine (2002), was in part inspired by her mother’s and grandparents’ experiences in internment camps during the 1940s. When the Emperor was Divine was named a New York Times Notable Book and a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year, and was featured in community reads in Colorado, Connecticut, Washington State, Iowa, California, and Vermont. Her second novel, The Buddha in the Attic, was the PEN/Faulkner Award winner and a National Book Award finalist. Her fiction has also been featured on Public Radio International and BBC Radio 4, and has been published in Granta, Harper’s Magazine, and The Best American Short Stories 2012. Otsuka currently lives in New York City.


About One Book, One Philadelphia

Founded in 2003 by the Free Library and the Mayor’s Office, One Book motivates tens of thousands of people to read the featured selection and participate in discussions, events, workshops, classes, and more.  All Free Library locations will have several hard copies of The Buddha in the Attic—as well as the middle-grade companion book, Journey to Topaz, and children’s companion book, A Place Where Sunflowers Grow—for customers to borrow with a Free Library card. In addition, the Free Library will have The Buddha in the Attic available as an ebook for download from its website as well as for loan on circulating NOOK ereaders. The book will also be available in audio format as a CD and as a downloadable audio file at


Department of External Affairs, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710, FAX (215) 567-7850