WHEN THE EMPEROR WAS DIVINE by Julie Otsuka On a sunny day in Berkeley, California, in 1942, a woman sees a sign in a post office window, returns to her house, 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 homes and sent to a dusty internment camp in the Utah desert.
In this lean and devastatingly evocative first novel, Julie Otsuka tells the story of one Japanese American family from five flawlessly realized points 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 almost four years in captivity. 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.
Exceptional. . . . Otsuka skillfully dramatizes a world suddenly foreign. . . . [Her] incantatory, unsentimental prose is the book’s greatest strength. THE NEW YORKER
[A] gentle, understated novel . . . A story that has more power than any other I have read about this time. LOS ANGELES TIMES
While you’re reading this accomplished novel, what impresses you most is how much Otsuka is able to convey—in a line, in a paragraph—about her characters’ surroundings, about their states of mind, and about the mood of our country at a time of crisis. THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
JULIE OTSUKA SPEAKS
Wed., April 19 at 6:30
Nash Theatre at RVCC
FREE PUBLIC EVENT
Julie Otsuka was born and raised in California. After studying art as an undergraduate at Yale University she pursued a career as a painter for several years before turning to fiction writing at age 30. She received her MFA from Columbia. She is a recipient of the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Asian American Literary Award, the American Library Association Alex Award, France’s Prix Femina Étranger, an Arts and Letters Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and was a finalist for the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
Her first novel, When the Emperor Was Divine (Knopf, 2002), is about the internment of a Japanese-American family during World War II. It has been translated into eleven languages and was a New York Times Notable Book, a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers finalist, and was recently added to the National Endowment for the Arts’ ‘The Big Read’ Library. The book is based on Otsuka’s own family history: her grandfather was arrested by the FBI as a suspected spy for Japan the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, and her mother, uncle and grandmother spent three years in an internment camp in Topaz, Utah. The New York Times called it “a resonant and beautifully nuanced achievement” and USA Today described it as “A gem of a book and one of the most vivid history lessons you’ll ever learn.” It has been assigned to all incoming freshmen at more than 45 colleges and universities and is a regular ‘Community Reads’ selection across the US.
Don't Miss These Other Great One Book Activities!
Tuesday, April 11, 1 - 2:20PM
From True Neutrality to Belligerency: America, Pearl Harbor, and the Decision to Intern. Talk by Keith Pomakoy, VP Academic Affairs Grand Conference Room A
The Rabbit in the Moon – Award winning documentary by Emiko Omori. A visually stunning and emotionally compelling documentary/memoir about the events, meaning and lingering effects of the World War II internment on the Japanese American community. Available to view in the Evelyn Field Library.
Raritan Valley Community
College 118 Lamington Road, Branchburg, NJ 08876
Main Office 908.526.1200
Raritan Valley Community
P.O. Box 3300, Somerville, NJ 08876-1265 raritanval.edu