Very sad but beautiful story. It's hard to believe that this really happened, especially to the Japanese-American children who really didn't even understand what was going on. But I can't even imagine what went on overseas (not like it's these people's faults). I doubt we could get away with something like that anymore.
The ending was a little odd, I really didn't understand what the father really did or what he was talking about, but it was nice that it was a somewhat happy ending...
It is a fast read, short story. The author never delves in the emotional side of the story. The book is written in a very detached manner. You almost have to imagine the pain and suffering of the protagonists. The events are true to history, reads like a biography. I enjoyed the book, but the subject matter is depressing as it concerns the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII.
Although there are probably others, this is the first book I have seen covering the subject of the internment of our "Japanese" American citizens (natural born as well as adopted) during WWII. Very eye opening. A shameful episode in our country's history is looked upon with matter of fact eloquence.
Otsuka's simplicity in language allows the reader to be in the moment with her characters, and her matter of fact tone reminds me of Steinbeck. Powerful events without judgement move the reader all the more. A lovely touching book!
Yes, it's a good book - but please, if you want to know "'what happened during WWII" one should really start with something like "Unbroken" or the other many memoirs of WWII soldiers, including those of the Japanese themselves. Life was horrific under the Japanese for about a quarter of the world's population at the time; what happened to the average Japanese American was of course awful, but context is everything here. The emperor claiming divinity was what was utterly shameful.
This rather short novel tells one of one Japanese American family's story of internment in a Utah camp during World War II. Each chapter is told from a different character's point of view. The fact that we never really learn any names or other characteristics that would set these characters apart makes it seem that the story could be ANY family. It is interesting to see how the mother, young son and daughter, and father who is taken away from his family all react to being treated as the enemy. This is a sad time in the United States' history, and the writer's sparse writing makes you feel every emotion.
This book is amazing. The writer's prose is so succinct that she acts a dispassionate observer of a tragedy that singles out a family and a people (Japanese Americans) for one of the greatest injustices of our history as a country. Because of the writer's unique style, the account is not weighed down by emotion. The author leaves it to the reader to impart moral judgment and emotion to what happened to Japanese Americans in this country during WW-II (my emotions and judgment are imparted above).
This work of fiction really hits you in the gut and makes you think. The main characters are all from one Japanese-American family and the experiences they have during the years directly following the bombing of Pearl Harbor both in the interment camps and their own neighborhood.
Brief, but moving. As an American, not of Japanese decent, I was mortified, embarrassed and outraged to see what had been done to my fellow citizens. I was able to speak with a friend whose great-grandparents were in the interment camps and my heart broke.
This is a splendid book which tells the story of an American family of Japanese descent who were sent to an internment camp during the second World War, told in the words of the individual family members. It talks matter of factly about a terrible time in our country's history.
Remarkable book and extremely powerful in story and style. The author has an almost poetic way with description which even in the worst of times for the book's characters, is beautiful. You can easily visualize the characters' surroundings and experiences.
Review first published on my blog: http://memoriesfrombooks.blogspot.com/2013/02/when-emperor-was-divine.html
When The Emperor Was Divine is the story of the Japanese in the United States during World War II. It is the story of one family, but written with no names perhaps to imply a universality of experience. A more recent book from Julie Otsuka - The Buddha in the Attic - tells the story of the Japanese picture brides up until World War II. This story, although written much earlier, picks up the story at that point.
It is the story of one family. The father has been arrested and detained as an "enemy." The family - mother, daughter, and son - are sent to an internment camp.
I have mixed feelings about this book. Some parts - especially as the father narrates - spoke to me and created an emotional connection. Other parts - mostly narrated by the little boy - I had a hard time finding a connection too. The entire book is written with no names, and that in and of itself creates a detachment. Yet, I found the emotion in certain sections, and not in others.
Perhaps, my reaction is also influenced by the fact that I very recently read The Buddha in the Attic, and absolutely loved it. That book is written entirely in third person plural. Yet, that consistency of tone achieves to create one character out of the entire group of women. This book does not successfully accomplish that.
One idea that really struck me is the quote above. This is a letter from the father to the little boy in which he advises that "it's better to bend than break." Bend not Break is the title of a memoir I read recently. I found it intriguing to find almost the exact words in this book.
Of course, the lingering question in my mind about this period in history is that this happened in the United States, and have we changed enough to ensure that such a violation of rights and liberties never happens here again?
While we all know this sad story, a shocking and embarrassing one for our country, Ms. Otsuka gives it a face. And a heart. Her writing style is elegantly simple, managing to give life and color and page turning drama in very few words. A quick read, but one that stays with you.
This is a book that stays with you for a long time. It gives a deep and haunting account of the Japanese-Americans during WWII and their experiences in the internment camps. I hope this book becomes required reading in schools.
A simply stated and sad story about a mother of two children who are reclassified to an internment camp during WWII. Well written, and running around 140 pages, I found it hard to put down and finished it quickly.
This beautiful little book is the simply told, but very affecting story of a Japanese family living in California in 1942 who, as "enemy aliens", are forcibly removed from their home and sent to an internment camp in the desert. The camp had watch towers, guard dogs, barbed wire fences, no indoor toilets, and other indignities. The reader never learns the names of the father, mother, son, or daughter, and somehow, that makes the reader realize that the experiences the father, mother, son and daughter relate are the experiences of 110,000 Japanese-Americans, whose exclusion lasted three years. A powerful tale of a shameful episode in U.S. history.
from back jacket:
In this lean and devastatingly evocative first novel, Julie Otsuka tells the (story of World War II Japanese relocation) from five flawlessly realized points of view and conveys the exact emotional texture of their experience: the thin-waled barracks and barbed-wire fences, the omnipresent fear and loneliness, the unheralded feats of heroism.