When the Emperor Was Divine Author:Julie Otsuka Julie Otsuka’s commanding debut novel paints a portrait of the Japanese internment camps unlike any we have ever seen. With crystalline intensity and precision, Otsuka uses a single family to evoke the deracination—both physical and emotional—of a generation of Japanese Americans. In five chapters, each flawlessly executed from... more » a different point of view—the mother receiving the order to evacuate; the daughter on the long train ride to the camp; the son in the desert encampment; the family’s return to their home; and the bitter release of the father after more than four years in captivity—she has created a small tour de force, a novel of unrelenting economy and suppressed emotion. Spare, intimate, arrestingly understated, When the Emperor Was Divine is a haunting evocation of a family in wartime and an unmistakably resonant lesson for our times. It heralds the arrival of a singularly gifted new novelist.« less
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.
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...
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!
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.
It seems the market is flooded with tales of WWII in Europe, and so few that cover the shameful time here in America where the Japanese-Americans were sent to enterment camps. This is a tiny book, but so very powerful in the simple language the author uses as she speaks through each character, mother, daughter, son. What they lived through, from the time the war began and they had to show how NOT Japanese they were, through the impoverished imprisionment, and their miserable return home, hits hard in the heart and gut. And yet, there is an odd sense of detachment due to the author not using names.