When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

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The debut novel from the PEN/Faulkner Award Winning Author of The Buddha in the Attic

On a sunny day in Berkeley, California, in 1942, a woman sees a sign in a post office window, returns to her home, and matter-of-factly begins to pack her family's possessions. Like thousands of other Japanese Americans they have been reclassified, virtually overnight, as enemy aliens and are about to be uprooted from their home and sent to a dusty internment camp in the Utah desert.

In this lean and devastatingly evocative first novel, Julie Otsuka tells their story from five flawlessly realized points of view and conveys the exact emotional texture of their experience: the thin-walled barracks and barbed-wire fences, the omnipresent fear and loneliness, the unheralded feats of heroism. When the Emperor Was Divine is a work of enormous power that makes a shameful episode of our history as immediate as today's headlines.

About Julie Otsuka

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Julie Otsuka was born and raised in California. She is the author of the novel When the Emperor Was Divine and a recipient of the Asian American Literary Award, the American Library Association Alex Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives in New York City.
Published December 18, 2007 by Anchor. 162 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, War. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for When the Emperor Was Divine

Kirkus Reviews

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Details abound—book titles, contemporary references (the Dionne quints, sugar rationing), keepsakes the children take to the camp (a watch, a blue stone), euthanizing the family dog the night before leaving for the camps—but still the narrative remains stubbornly at the surface, almost like an in...

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Star Tribune

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Just three months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order that set into motion the eviction of more than 100,000 residents of Japanese ancestry from their homes in Washington, Oregon, Arizona, California and Alaska.

Sep 14 2002 | Read Full Review of When the Emperor Was Divine

The Daily Beast

“I had run across so many interesting stories during my research—stories of women whose husbands had sent photographs of themselves taken 20 years earlier, of women who had sailed to America expecting to live lives of leisure only to find themselves working as field hands and laundresses within d...

Sep 16 2011 | Read Full Review of When the Emperor Was Divine

London Review of Books

The first part of the story – from Roosevelt’s issuing of Executive Order 9066 to the family’s leaving their home in Berkeley, California – is told, with superb assurance, through the eyes of the mother.

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Large Print Reviews

This, Boyle's sixth collection of short stories, contains sixteen stories, nine of which have appeared in the New Yorker and three in the O'Henry Awards and The Best American Short Story volumes.

Nov 12 2003 | Read Full Review of When the Emperor Was Divine

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