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When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

When the Emperor Was Divine (original 2002; edition 2003)

by Julie Otsuka

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1,552964,726 (3.78)206
Title:When the Emperor Was Divine
Authors:Julie Otsuka
Info:Anchor (2003), Paperback, 160 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Own, Japan, Diaspora, America, Non-fiction

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When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka (2002)


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Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
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 |
This story needs to be told more often than it is. Japanese internment is an issue that is close to my family, as my grandfather served in the army during the Korean war and was living in Japan. My mother tells us stories about how she heard of these camps, but how everyone forgot about them, which people should never do. Our knowing what happened to Japanese Americans was very important to her and this book tells the story beautifully. It is short, but it is touching in so many ways. A must read for its beautiful writing style and important historical significance. Readers might even be able to feel a little of what it was like to have lived this experience. ( )
  mirrani | Dec 27, 2016 |
The tone of When the Emperor Was Divine is passive, almost meditative, in its depiction of a Japanese American family's internment during World War II. The five short chapters shift the focal point of the story to different family members, with the shortest and strongest at the end. The last chapter, "The Confession", is jolting after the near lyrical prose of the rest of the book. ( )
  wandaly | Jun 30, 2016 |
Love, love, love this book. A sparingly written story about the Japanese internment camps of WWII. This book is very short but it packs a big story with it's brilliant use of words. I was especially touched by the last chapter. The book starts out with the mom reading the evacuation order stapled up all over town. I can't imagine having my life ripped out from under me. How would one endear such circumstances? Each family member tells a part of the story from their point of view. Anyone who is interested in WWII should read this book. This would be a great book club selection, the conversation topics are unlimited. ( )
  bnbookgirl | Mar 26, 2016 |
4.5 stars.
The writing style lends to the feelings of incredulity and despair the characters must feel as the events unfold around them. The reader is left feeling angry, and humiliated, and embarrassed, and sad, and Sorry ... so So Sorry. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 26, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
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This book is for my parents
and in memory of Toyoko H. Nozaka
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The sign had appeared overnight.
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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.

(summary from another edition)

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