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Quand l'empereur était un dieu…
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Quand l'empereur était un dieu (original 2002; edition 2008)

by Julie Otsuka, Bruno Boudard (Traduction)

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1,337835,794 (3.78)198
Member:marcellemarcelle
Title:Quand l'empereur était un dieu
Authors:Julie Otsuka
Other authors:Bruno Boudard (Traduction)
Info:10 X 18 (2008), Poche, 155 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:roman, américain, japonais

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When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka (2002)

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Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
When The Emperor was Divine, a novel by Julie Otsuka is a powerful story of a Japanese-American family during the Second World War. It is a short book and might be a good story to use in an American history class. I have used fiction in the past (Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and Edward Abbey's Monkeywrench Gang, for example) and it generally works well to encourage students to deconstruct ideas and events. The trick to make it effective is to know how representative the story is to wider experience. I have not read enough on the internment experience to know the answer to this question. For example, Otsuka's family returns to their house after the war. How often did this occur? This is an important part of her story because the author can show how different their life was after the war by contrasting their pre-war and post-war lives. Their status in the community certainly suffered from the stigma of internment. How representative is the father, who was interned the very night of the Pearl Harbor attack and does not reunite with his family until December 1945? Again, it is a crucial part of the story, and I found the last chapter "Confession" to be particularly insightful (I am still debating the meaning of the final sentence). He returns a truly broken man. In another clear indication of how internment impacted the family, the dream of a return to normalcy is crushed the minute they see "Papa" at the train station, four years after the FBI spirited him away.

From my blog: http://gregshistoryblog.blogspot.com/2012/07/when-emperor-was-divine.html ( )
  gregdehler | Aug 24, 2014 |
I finished reading When the Emperor Was Divine a couple of days ago, and I was at a loss for words for my review. Everything that I noticed, felt, and appreciated about the denseness of this sparse little book was neatly encapsulated in the synopsis of this edition. Check it out if you haven't already.

Anyway, part of my goals this year is to review every single book I read, and so OCD got the better of me, and here I am now. How can I sum up this book without being redundant? Simply this: this is a book that needs to be read at some point in your life. It's a part of "silent" history, because as of today we have yet know all the different ways Japanaese American families were affected during this pivotal time of American history. Life didn't just resume like it had before. People were changed. Familes were displaced. Belongings were lost. Spirits were broken.

Even though this was Otsuka's debut novel, I'm glad I read her follow-up first. In retrospect, The Buddah in the Attic almost seems like a prequel. Either way, you can't go wrong with either one of these books. They're short novellas, and for a somewhat slow reader, I was able to finish both in one to two sittings. Check them out if you get a chance! ( )
  dreamydress48 | Jul 26, 2014 |
WHEN THE EMPEROR WAS DIVINE, by Julie Otsuka, is a starkly evocative look at the way Japanese-American citizens were treated - or, perhaps more accurately, MIStreated - during the Second World War. Camp Topaz, in the Utah Desert, was just one of many internment, or 'relocation,' centers where whole families were kept locked up behind barbed wire fences with armed watchtowers surrounding them. Such internment camps have often been compared to concentration camps, but I'm not sure that's a fair comparison. Nevertheless, a whole group of Americans were rounded up, dispossessed and imprisoned for 3-4 years simply because of their ethnic heritage.

Otsuka's novel is perhaps even more effective because her protagonists - four members of one family - are never named. They are simply, the mother, the father, the boy and the girl. The unnamed family members could be any Japanese-American family of that time. The father is spirited away in the night; the rest of the family is given only a few days to pack their suitcases and leave their homes, transported first to processing centers - in stables - and then to a desolate desert camp in Utah. The psychological, physical and emotional effects of this callous uprooting are devastating. Otsuka's eye for detail and ear for dialogue are simply superb. Her novel is a microcosmic look at what happened to tens of thousands of families across the western U.S.

I was immediately reminded of the excellent YA classic, FAREWELL TO MANZANAR, which I read many years ago, one of many books about the relocation camps. But Otsuka's WHEN THE EMPEROR WAS DIVINE is especially stunning and unique in its multiple and anonymous points of view. This is an outstanding fictional look at a shameful episode in our country's history. Highly recommended. ( )
  TimBazzett | Jun 29, 2014 |
rabck from taxmanager; tiny book, sparse in prose, but packing an emotional wallop. In each chapter, the story of a Japanese American family's internment during WWII is revealed. Oh, how horrible and how broken were their lives during and after the forced relocation and separation. Powerful read. Reserving for the ABC bookbox. ( )
  nancynova | Mar 29, 2014 |
The internment of Japanese immigrants and Japanese-American citizens during World War II is a disturbing chapter in American History, that doesn't receive much attention. Thousands of ethnic Japanese citizens and families were stripped of their freedom, homes, businesses, and sense of security overnight. Limited to what they could carry in a single suitcase, they were ushered from homes to temporary living facilities in horse stalls to their final destinations, tent cities in the harsh, remote desert regions of our country. If that wasn't shameful enough the government forced everyone to take loyalty tests, which if answered honestly could result in separation or deportation. They lost everything they had built before the war and during the war they lost their dignity. For their trouble each person was given a train ticket home and $25.00 (the same package given to convicted felons upon release) with which to start their lives over again. And yet their really isn't much written about this period.

When the Emperor was Divine is the story of one family as they struggle to prepare, adjust to live within the camp, and come home from a internment camp in the Utah desert. The story is told from the perspective of members of the family in alternating chapters. The first chapter is told from the mother's point of view as they are forced to prepare for the evacuation. The fear of the unknown and the struggle to maintain their pride is palpable. The second chapter is told by the daughter as they travel to their new home, and dealing with their loss sense of identity. The third chapter is from the young son's perspective as they adjust and learn to live within the camp. The final chapter is told from either a more mature son's perspective or a combination of both the boy and girls voices telling of a once proud father, who is now just a broken paranoid shell and a family struggling to put their life together in a world they are now very unfamiliar to the world they left.

Each chapter is unique and distinct. Normally a story told like this can be choppy, but here they flow together with no harsh transitions. This book is unrelentingly depressing and dark. The family makes the best of their situation, but they are clearly broken and they are never too far from crumbling under the stress. The only thing holding them together are their bonds. Hope is in short supply.

The only real problem with this book is that it is far too short. The four chapters only cover the first few months of the war and the aftermath for this one family. It's not enough to explore the entirity of the effects of forced relocation on the family. This book calls for a much more in depth exploration of internment. But really this is only a minor defect of a well written book, that I'm glad I was able to snipe off the wishlist. ( )
3 vote stretch | Mar 15, 2014 |
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:49 -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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