When the Emperor Was Divine

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Dec 18, 2007 - Fiction - 160 pages
The debut novel from the PEN/Faulkner Award Winning Author of The Buddha in the Attic

On a sunny day in Berkeley, California, in 1942, a woman sees a sign in a post office window, returns to her home, 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 home 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 their 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.

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User Review  - patl - LibraryThing

I try to make a point to read from authors who come from a different space than I do in order to learn broadly. Julie Otsuka’s memoir/novel about her San Francisco – based family’s relocation to the ... Read full review

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User Review  - bell7 - LibraryThing

California, 1942 - a woman and her son and daughter are evacuated from their home and brought to an internment camp. Their experiences, in a series of descriptive impressions and memories, follow them ... Read full review

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Page 11 - Enemy Mail." The woman sat down on a rock beneath the persimmon tree. White Dog lay at her feet and closed his eyes. "White Dog," she said, "look at me." White Dog raised his head. The woman was his mistress and he did whatever she asked. She put on her white silk gloves and took out a roll of twine. "Now just keep looking at me," she said. She tied White Dog to the tree. "You've been a good dog,
Page 11 - Hush," she said. White Dog grew quiet. "Now roll over," she said. White Dog rolled over and looked up at her with his good eye. "Play dead," she said. White Dog turned his head to the side and closed his eyes. His paws went limp. Mrs. Hayashi picked up the large shovel that was leaning against the trunk of the tree. She lifted it high in the air with both hands and brought the blade down swiftly on his head. White Dog's body shuddered twice and his hind legs kicked out into the air, as though he...
Page 7 - ... faded blue one — her housedress. She twisted her hair up into a bun and put on an old pair of comfortable shoes. She had to finish packing. She rolled up the Oriental rug in the living room. She took down the mirrors. She took down the curtains and shades. She carried the tiny bonsai tree out to the yard and set it down on the grass beneath the eaves where it would not get too much shade or too much sun but just the right amount of each. She brought the wind-up Victrola and the Westminster...
Page 9 - ... going or how long they would be gone or who would look after the house while they were away. She knew only that tomorrow they had to go. There were things they could take with them: bedding and linen, forks, spoons, plates, bowls, cups, clothes. These were the words she had written down on the back of the bank receipt. Pets were not allowed. That was what the sign had said. It was late April. It was the fourth week of the fifth month of the war and Mrs. Hayashi, who did not always follow the...
Page 8 - ... set aside a few things for later that evening. Everything else— the china, the silver, the set of ivory chopsticks her mother had sent to her fifteen years ago from Hawaii on her wedding day — she put into boxes. She taped the boxes shut with the tape she had bought from Lundy's Hardware Store and carried them one by one up the stairs to the sunroom. When she was done she locked the door with two padlocks and sat down on the landing with her dress pushed up above her knees and lit a cigarette....

About the author (2007)

Julie Otsuka was born and raised in California. She is a graduate of Yale University and received her M.F.A. from Columbia. She lives in New York City.

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