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Summer Tales 2021

Summer Tales is a virtual community for students taking classes remotely. It promises short mental breaks from coursework through reading and social interaction, two fool-proof methods of distraction.

Why Should You Read This Story?

Julie Otsuka creates a compelling, heart-wrenching portrait of an elderly woman’s character and life story as she begins to lose her memory.

The Short Story: Diem Perdidi, by Julie Otsuka

 

"When you ask her your name,

she does not remember what it is."

Excerpt from Diem Perdidi, by Julie Otsuka  

 

SYNOPSIS

It might be more accurate to call Diem Perdidi an inventory rather than a narrative. In sentences beginning with “she remembers” and “she does not remember,” Julie Otsuka unfolds a portrait of an elderly woman with dementia, capturing her personality and personal history even as she begins to forget. The story invites us to reflect on what makes up individual identity––our experiences, our habits, our relationships––and what happens to them when they slip out of our grasp.

Talking Points - Reflection Pool

  1. Do you notice patterns in what the woman remembers, or doesn’t?
  2. What do we learn about the “you” in the story? Why would Otsuka choose to use the second person pronoun here?
  3. Why does Otsuka tell a story about memory in the present tense?
  4. The philosopher John Locke claimed that the continuity of “personal identity” was grounded on memory: the consciousness of having been the same person at two different points in time. Is the woman in the story the same person she used to be? Does memory loss affect one’s personhood or personal identity?

About the author

Julie Otsuka is the author of two novels focusing on the historic experience of Japanese Americans. She is the recipient of numerous awards including thePEN/Faulkner Award, the Asian American Literary Award, the American Library Association Alex Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Otsuka grew up in California before studying art at Yale University and later pursuing an MFA at Columbia. More from julieotsuka.com.

Julie Otsuka at Rutgers Libraries

Julie Otsuka Reads From The Buddha in the Attic

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