torontoc's Orange January 2012
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When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka. This novel was on the longlist for the Orange Prize. Otsuka is a writer of " spartan" prose. She compresses a lot of emotion in her account of a Japanese-American family forced from their home in California into an internment camp in Utah during World War II. Each chapter has a different member of the family narrating the story of leaving their home, the journey and the life in the camp. The reader doesn't not learn names and sometimes what is not told or left out in the story is as telling as the related details. This is a very powerful story about what has been called a " shameful episode" in American history. The Canadian experience is similar and there have been novels about the expulsion of Japanese Canadians from coastal provinces as well.
Otsuka writes in a minimalist style- I read an excerpt of her second book in Granta Magazine. I look forward to reading her next book.
The Japanese internment camps is a chapter in history I find very interesting (and tremendously sad). I look forward to reading When the Emperor Was Divine....thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book.
I recently read Vivienne Schiffer's Camp Nine on this subject and was rather impressed; it's a topic that I'm pleased to see explored in fiction as so many of us aren't aware of the atrocious treatment citizens received, excused by "wartime'. I really enjoyed Swamplandia! and it added her short stories to my TBR list as well!
In Australia, we had internment camps for German and Italian Australians. I assume we just didn't have many Japanese people living here then?? They just never seem to be mentioned when people talk about the internment camps. (Hm, did a Google, and it mostly seems to be talking about Japanese POWs, interred at Cowra, not Japanese Australians.)
Wookie, I've visited Cowra on the way home from The Western Plains Zoo. We took a walk around the site of the old Japanese POW internment camp, there was a break out there during the war and many POW and some guards were killed. We also visited the well tended grave sites. Very sad, most of the dead were in their 20s. After the war the Japanese were so impressed with the attitude of the R.S.L members that tended the graves that they decided to bring all their war dead from other parts of Australia to be re-buried at Cowra.
There is also a beautiful Japanese Garden at Cowra. The building of the Garden came about as a direct extension of the cemetery.
Aparently, civilians interned at Cowra included local Italians and nearly 500 Javanese and Indonesians.
Whoops, apologies torontoc for hi-jacking your thread!
When The Emperor Was Divine and Camp Nine sounds very interesting. Wishlisted :)
When the Emperor Was Divine sounds like a good one. It is a struggle to look back and see the unfair actions of our countries, but it might prevent it from happening again in the future.
Many of the Japanese interned in the States were from families that had been American for many generations. The ignorance is a dark shadow, but we still struggle with a similar situation regarding attitudes toward Muslim Americans.
Very interesting...I did not know that Italians and Germans were interred in Australia. My husband's parents are Italian immigrants, so that hits close to home.
Finally Googled where Cowra is, and it's not that far away, really. (I've done daytrips to Canberra before, and it's pretty much the same distance, just a slightly different direction.) Will have to think about visiting! Thanks for your comments, Kim.
And, yeah, sorry for hijacking the thread! When the Emperor Was Divine definitely sounds worth tracking down.
There are some bellissimo vinyards down that way too. We've been known to sample the odd bottle from Cowra Estate.
End of hijack ;)
The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt. This imagined biography of scientist Nikola Tesla combines a description of his last years living in New York with a story of a young woman and her father. Louisa and her father Walter work as a maid in a hotel and a night watchman respectively. Walter is a believer in the inventions of his friend Azor, including a time travel machine. Louisa befriends Tesla and learns the story of his collaborations with Edison and Westinghouse. Tesla made bad business dicisions as he was always thinking of the next invention. The story of belief and invention is fanciful in some ways and wonderful to read. The author recreates a life of the neglected scientist and new characters who believe in the promise of the future. A well crafted book and an Orange Prize nominee. ( short list 2009)
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