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When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

When the Emperor Was Divine (2002)

by Julie Otsuka

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1,623994,463 (3.78)206
  1. 10
    Obasan by Joy Kogawa (kiwidoc)
    kiwidoc: Explores Japanese internment in Canada

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Showing 1-5 of 97 (next | show all)
Interesting book about Japanese interment during WWII. This is the first book I've ever read where not a single main character ever had a name. It really made the story feel like it could have been any Japanese family living in Berkley CA at the time. I thought it was a good approach to the subject.
  sochri | Nov 21, 2017 |
This is a spare and elegant view of what one family went through during internment. The writing style is unusual but it works. The POV and view changes and we know, intimately, who we are hearing from, but we never learn the names of any character. This story is intensely emotional because of the subject matter and the close view the reader shares with the characters, but it never veers into trauma porn or becomes melodramatic. Would highly recommend. Good story, excellent example of taking a challenging subject and writing it artfully. ( )
  AjaxBell | Aug 24, 2017 |
This story centers on a Japanese-American family and starts the day the notices went up, ordering all Americans of Japanese descent to report for Internment. Told from different points of view, mother, father, brother, sister, each placing a portion of the story into place, giving the reader an all-encompassing view of the emotions, the sorrow, the endurance, the loss, which these people suffered. It’s heartbreaking. Some, like the father, never recover. Some, like the children, have their life irrevocably altered, leaving behind whoever they might have been and becoming someone else. And some, like the mother, simple accept what comes, without complaint, like a rock at the edge of the sea. Otsuka’s prose, simple and evocative, create images that do not easily leave the mind. One can almost taste the dust of the camp, feel the biting wind, and smell the desert. A must-read, particularly in today’s social and political climate. ( )
  empress8411 | Feb 10, 2017 |
A wonderfully written account of the Japanese camps during WW II. The boy's father is sent to a different camp. The story is told basically by a young boy who spends three years in a camp with his mother and sister to only come home to a ruined house and people who hated his family. Their ordeal in the camp is harrowing but if they were left in their house is could have been worse because of the hatred around them for the Japanese. You decide which would have been better. ( )
  joannemonck | Jan 26, 2017 |
I am conflicted as to what rating to give this book. I was going to give it three stars but after reading the last chapter, I lowered it to 2. I was initially intrigued by the way it was written in that none of the four main characters had names….they were referenced simply by mother, father, brother, sister, and various pronouns. But then you realize it is written that way because the story could be ANY of the people of Japanese descent (whether American citizens or not) during the encampments that were established in America during WWII. Unfortunately, I think by keeping it generic, the story doesn’t grip the audience as much as it could have and that would be why I would have only given it a 3. But I didn’t – I gave it a 2. I absolutely hated the last chapter in which the author finally speaks from the “father’s” perspective and goes on a rant. Trust, I know this these encampments were definitely wrongful treatment and an embarrassing time in history for America, however, ending the story by essentially yelling at the reader for this wrong doing is not how this book should have ended. She could have gotten her point across another way.
If you are looking to read a novel based on the encampments, [b:Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet|3367956|Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet|Jamie Ford|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348332221s/3367956.jpg|3407295] is a MUCH better book. ( )
  lynnski723 | Dec 31, 2016 |
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This book is for my parents
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Book description
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 their story from five flawlessly realized points of view and conveys the exact emotional texture of the 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. (0-385-72181-1)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385721811, Paperback)

A precise, understated gem of a first novel, Julie Otsuka's When the Emperor Was Divine tells one Japanese American family's story of internment in a Utah enemy alien camp during World War II. We never learn the names of the young boy and girl who were forced to leave their Berkeley home in 1942 and spend over three years in a dusty, barren desert camp with their mother. Occasional, heavily censored letters arrive from their father, who had been taken from their house in his slippers by the FBI one night and was being held in New Mexico, his fate uncertain. But even after the war, when they have been reunited and are putting their stripped, vandalized house back together, the family can never regain its pre-war happiness. Broken by circumstance and prejudice, they will continue to pay, in large and small ways, for the shape of their eyes. When the Emperor Was Divine is written in deceptively tranquil prose, a distillation of injustice, anger, and poetry; a notable debut. --Regina Marler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:49 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Otsuka's commanding debut novel paints a portrait of the Japanese internment camps unlike any previously written--a haunting evocation of a family in wartime and an unmistakably resonant lesson for our times.

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