Read when the emperor was divine by Julie Otsuka Online


The debut novel from the PEN/Faulkner Award Winning Author of The Buddha in the AtticOn 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 andThe debut novel from the PEN/Faulkner Award Winning Author of The Buddha in the AtticOn 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....

Title : when the emperor was divine
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ISBN : 16172698
Format Type : Unknown Binding
Number of Pages : 463 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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when the emperor was divine Reviews

  • Nataliya
    2019-01-24 12:56

    “But we never stopped believing that somewhere out there, in some stranger’s backyard, our mother’s rosebush was blossoming madly, wildly, pressing one perfect red flower after another out into the late afternoon light.”It's easy to make a story like this melodramatic, moralistic, overwrought with feelings. A less skilled writer would have done it. A story of an unnamed Japanese-American family banished from their quiet life in Berkeley to spend over three years in an internment camp for a simple "crime" of being Japanese in the US during World War II is, after all, a story that comes with built-in pathos and anger - a collision of emotions that in the right hands can deliver a perfect punch. “Keep your head down and don’t cause any trouble, we’d been told, weeks before, in a mess hall lecture on “How to Behave in the Outside World.” Speak only English. Do not walk down the street in groups of more than three, or gather in restaurants in groups of more than five. Do not draw attention to yourselves in any way.”But Julie Otsuka does not take the easy and obvious path. She stays away from the obvious heartstrings-tugging a lesser writer could have settled for. Instead, she delivers a subtle but remarkably powerful story; a crisp and precise and yet muted and subdued, understated and somewhat detached narrative with nevertheless a documentary camera lens-like clarity. She does not tell but shows, letting us experience and make our own conclusions through the eyes of the family members - the mother, the girl, the boy, then the combined "we" of the children's perspectives, finally ending on the shortest and the most charged viewpoint of the father. The tragedy of the casual crime of the country against some of its citizens carries a heavy weight. But still, the conclusions are left to be your own.“They had all seen us leave, at the beginning of the war, had peered out through their curtains as we walked down the street with our enormous overstuffed suitcases. But none of them came out, that morning, to wish us goodbye, or good luck, or ask us where it was we were going (we didn’t know). None of them waved.”The powerful parts for me were not the internment chapters but the return - back to the 'normal' world, into the lives forcibly left behind years ago, without an acknowledgement of the wrongness done but instead with a measly payout equal to those released criminals get, expected to act like nothing had happened but to cautiously "behave", accept the injustice as necessity and move on, blend in, not make any waves, pretending that they don't know who used to own the bits of life pilfered by your own neighbors. And eventually you may learn to accept the belief that somehow you must have been at fault - otherwise how can it all make sense?“We looked at ourselves in the mirror and did not like what we saw: black hair, yellow skin, slanted eyes. The cruel face of the enemy.We were guilty.”It's a short book, and every page in it is essential; there's no filler, only the bits that are necessary to build the intricate picture of the events that should provoke anger but - since there's little choice for those swept away by them - have to be met with resignation and attempts to preserve dignity while inevitably stripping away the bits of self that are found to be inconvenient for those wielding power. It's a wonderful book.“So go ahead and lock me up. Take my children. Take my wife. Freeze my assets. Seize my crops. Search my office. Ransack my house. Cancel my insurance. Auction off my business. Hand over my lease. Assign me a number. Inform me of my crime. Too short, too dark, too ugly, too proud. Put it down in writing—is nervous in conversation, always laughs loudly at the wrong time, never laughs at all—and I’ll sign on the dotted line. Is treacherous and cunning, is ruthless, is cruel. And if they ask you someday what it was I most wanted to say, please tell them, if you would, it was this:I’m sorry.There. That’s it. I’ve said it. Now can I go?”

  • Diane
    2019-01-20 13:04

    This historical novel is both gorgeous and heartbreaking. It follows a Japanese-American family that is sent to an internment camp in the Utah desert during World War II. The story follows the family as they get the news of the forced relocation, the trip to the camp, how they lived in the barracks, and finally, after more than three years of incarceration, their return home. I appreciated this novel because the Japanese internment is a dark chapter of U.S. history, and one that seems overlooked in school textbooks. Otsuka's writing is beautiful, and her prose is so lyrical that at times it feels poetic. I had read her other novel The Buddha in the Attic, which follows a group of Japanese women immigrating to America, and it is also gorgeous and heartbreaking. I highly recommend both of these novels to anyone interested in the perspective of Japanese-Americans.Favorite Quote"We used to live in the desert. We used to wake, every morning, to the blast of a siren. We used to stand in line for our meals three times a day. We used to stand in line for our mail. We used to stand in line to get coal. We used to stand in line whenever we had to shower or use the latrine. We used to hear the wind hissing day and night through the sagebrush. We used to hear coyotes. We used to hear every word spoken by our neighbors on the other side of the thin barrack wall ... We used to try and imagine what it would be like when we finally returned home."

  • Saleh MoonWalker
    2019-02-07 14:13

    Onvan : When the Emperor Was Divine - Nevisande : Julie Otsuka - ISBN : 385721811 - ISBN13 : 9780385721813 - Dar 144 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2002

  • Megan Baxter
    2019-01-17 17:59

    How do you write about trauma? Are you verbose and expansive? Terse and straighforward? In this case, you use elegant and spare prose that brings home the extent of the wrong by never quite stating it in so many words. Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  • Michael
    2019-02-06 13:11

    I love Otsuka’s voice, judicious metaphors, and understated emotional hooks in this child’s eye view of the Japanese internment in World War 2. I have already had the pleasure of her 2011 gem, “The Buddha in the Attic”, which covers the same subject from an adult perspective that often breaks into powerful incantation in a broad “we” mode. In this novella eight years earlier, the narrative tends to be more conventional, yet it still has fresh and lyrical approaches for portraying this sad chapter in American history.The boy of focus in the tale is eight at the time after Pearl Harbor when his father gets taken away from his Berkeley home by the FBI in the middle of the night. Because he was known to have a Shinto shrine with a picture of Emperor Hirohito, he was treated as a likely spy and later interned in a high security camp in New Mexico. The rest of the family--the boy, mother, and sister —is shipped to a camp in the high desert of Utah. The confused packing for the unknown and the shock of suddenly leaving friends and a beloved dog behind are touchingly presented from the boy’s perspective. The families are housed for the next three and a half years in austere barracks surrounded with barbed wire fencing manned by armed guards. That members of the family are not named makes them stand in for all American Japanese. The family makes do the best they can, enduring the heat in the summer, the cold in the winter, maintaining their dignity despite underground rivers of shame and sense of unjust treatment by their adopted country. At first the rules for the boy are simple:On their first day in the desert his mother had said, “Be careful.”“Do not touch the barbed-wire fence,” she had said, “or talk to the guards in the towers.“Do not stare at the sun.“And, remember, never say the Emperor’s name out loud.”(The rest of the review gives samples of their experiences with quotes of Otsuka’s succinct and often poetic prose. Some may consider that a spoiler. If so, skip to the last paragraph.)In subtle ways, Otsuka reveals their sense of erasure:Always, he would remember the dust. It was soft and white and chalky, like talcum powder. Only the alkaline made your skin burn. It made your nose bleed. It made your eyes sting. It took your voice away. The dust got into your shoes. Your hair. Your pants. Your mouth. Your bed.Your dreams. …One evening, before he went to bed, he wrote his name in the dust across the top of the table. All through the night, while he slept, more dust blew through the walls.By morning his name was gone.Part of the key to survival is through imagination:All night long he dreamed of water. Endless days of rain. Overflowing canals and rivers and streams rushing down to the sea. …On the morning he woke up longing for a glass of Coke. Just one, with lots of ice, and a straw. He’d sip it slowly. He’d make it last a long time.A day. A week. A year, even.The family gets periodic letters from the father, but most of the writing is blanked out by censors. The boy tries hard to keep his father’s memory alive—it choked me up pretty effectively:He was extremely polite. Whenever he walked into a room he closed the door behind him softly. He was always on time. He wore beautiful suits and did not yell at waiters. He loved pistachio nuts. He believed that fruit juice was the ideal drink. He liked to doodle. … Sometimes he thought he was dreaming, and he was sure that when he woke up his father would be downstairs in the kitchen whistling “Begin the Beguine” through his teeth as he fried up breakfast in the skillet. “Here it comes, champ,” his father would say, “one hobo egg sandwich.”Eventually able bodied men in the camp are recruited to help with the harvests in the western states. Despite a bit of normalcy in the work, there was more stigma to face outside:They said the signs in the windows were the same wherever they went: NO JAPS ALLOWED. Life was easier, they said, on this side of the fence.And every week they heard new rumors and final solutions for their fate:The men and women would be put into separate camps. They would be sterilized. They would be stripped of their citizenship. They would be taken out onto the high seas and shot. …No wonder the families were susceptible to such thoughts, given the distortions and contradictions of the official statements of justification for their treatment: You’ve been brought here for your own protection, they were told.It was all in the interest of national security.It was a matter of military necessity.It was an opportunity for them to prove their loyalty.When the war was over, I can’t imagine how things could ever be normal again for the families returning to their communities. Former acquaintances pretend not to see them. The boy can barely recognize his father when he returns months later, as he seems so aged and broken. Still, they persist with brave resilience, and a new resolve emerges:Nothing’s changed, we said to ourselves. The war had been an interruption, nothing more. We would pick up our lives where we had left off and go on. …We would join their clubs, after school, if they would let us. We would listen to their music. We would dress just like they did. We would change our names to sound more like theirs. …We would never be mistaken for the enemy again!This slipping into first person plural is a great breakout and preview to "The Buddha in the Attic". The "we" for me evokes the whole human race for all the expedient but inhumane solutions committed around the world to deal with the mistrust between peoples. Even in the case of genocides, it helps me a lot to think that we all are responsible for committing these acts and not give in to distancing ourselves from them by thinking in terms of "they" and "then".

  • Pooriya
    2019-02-04 15:13

    داستان درمورد زندگی مهاجران ژاپنی در آمریکا در بحبحه‌ی جنگ جهانی دوم است. خانواده‌ای که به واسطه نژادشان تنبیه می‌شوند! زیرا که انسان گرگ انسان است. هر فصل از این داستان از زبان و دیدگاه یکی از اعضای خانواده نوشته شده که درگیری‌های ذهنی‌ خودش و خانواده‌اش را با زبان و تفکر خود بیان می‌کند. فضای سیاه آن روزگار به شکلی صریح و مینیمالیستی بیان شده و سقوط انسان را در حاشیه جنگ جهانی دوم نشان می‌دهد.‏

  • Aubrey
    2019-01-22 10:53

    As of this moment, there are various rules and regulations being pushed through the US government regarding the formation of internment camps for refugees fleeing through the US-Mexican border from the drug wars of the USA's creation. There's nothing new under the sun here, nothing beyond the standard protocol of a country that has been at war for 214 of the 235 years of its existence and has only increased the size of its playground over time. What that last part translates to is the fire and the frying pan, friends I've made who thought US imperialism had to be better than Chinese communism, targets of hate crimes who cannot "go back where they came from" if they don't want to be killed by drones, each and every person who both knew and had no idea what it takes to live in this land depending on the color of skin and the mode of accent and history. Always the history. The average citizen may not know the name of every president, but the pecking order they have, are, and will continue to bequeath is inherent.Military industrial complex. What this means is ads for the Navy before Pixar movies (as many little lights as there are stars as there are threats on the globe, and that, my friend, is everywhere), minuscule reservations for 562 indigenous nations in one of the largest spans of terrorism the world has ever seen, a continual us versus them in entertainment, school curriculum, the percentage of translations allotted in the literature market (not the subtitles! anything but the subtitles!) and the number of white people teaching yoga, karate, and whatever else the fads of cultural appropriation has spat up over the centuries. This book talks about Pearl Harbor, my times talk about 9/11, and anyone who wants to argue for why what came after was made acceptable by those events needs to read, read, and keep reading the promises being made in never ending payback. The moment you cannot keep looking at the genocides being wrought in the name of that particular much named event is the moment you need to ask yourself what the actual fuck is going on.Culture clash. The US versus Japan. Those caught and balanced between two countries that each in their own way loathe the Other within their land and that is the last thing I will say about the latter of the two cause, trust me, my side's got enough with the slurs, the rape fetishes, the white scholars making bank off of Orientalization, the concentration camp histories gone over in this tome and the military bases in Okinawa. It is one of many power plays constantly calculating how far the white US citizen can go in their treatment of this country, that religion, those people, their face, taking what they please and shaming what they know because there're few things in this world that make money faster than fear. I told you. It's an industry. Look at the correlation between when non-European countries gained their independence and when European countries got poor; then dwell upon colonies, settler states, and Manifest Destiny.Berkeley and Bay Area co.'re popularly known as the liberal bastion of the US, home of the multicultural friendlies and open minded folks and a UC that can't seem to take the rapists on its campus seriously despite multiple lawsuits and the governmental like. Between that and this and what is yet to come in the policies of the foreign and the domestic and the Idol of Enemy Number One, what is there to be done?

  • Eve
    2019-02-08 13:00

    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!

  • Derek
    2019-01-25 11:47

    I recognize that the terse language, namelessness of the characters, and relatively uneventful plot in Julie Otsuka’s When the Emperor was Divine are all aesthetic choices. They’re just not choices that I agree with.Otsuka details the experiences of a family of Japanese Americans placed in an internment camp during World War II. It’s an engaging topic, one not overly explored in American historical fiction, but her methods of conveying the important story only serve to undermine the urgency of the message. The family is taken away, spend most of their time reminiscing about their old home and missing father, and then they go home. And, outside of a brief first-person rant from the father that ends the book, we’re given very little in terms of the emotional turmoil of the characters.Which is unfortunate, because Otsuka has a gift for describing longing, a note she hits well, over and over. The scenery is nicely described and glimpses are given into the characters’ dreams. But there’s so little here (the page count doesn’t break 200), and the dearth of information left me a little cold.It’s a shameful piece of American history, one that deserves exploration, but the book can’t float on that alone. The reader has no sense of why this family is important, or perhaps a sense of what makes their experiences unique and engaging. I get the impression that I’m just expected to extrapolate all of that. Keep in mind I’m not looking for this book to be Dan Browned. I just want to know these characters a little more thoroughly. As it stands, they appear merely as sketches.

  • Sue
    2019-01-19 10:55

    This is a difficult book to read, as well it should be, a book of loneliness, deep sadness and alienation during an episode of fairly recent history. During World War II, in fact, mere months after Pearl Harbor, thousands of Japanese residents of the United States were labeled enemy aliens and removed from their homes, transported across country to camps set up in the middle of the desert, inhospitable spots of searing heat in the summer and terrible cold in the winter. This book is the story of one family, a mother, daughter and son, for the father has been removed separately. We readers witness the break up of the home, the reactions of neighbors, the long, long train trip and then arrival in what will be a new home for however long.This is a spare book, a novella really, but every page is packed with earned emotion.Highly recommended glimpse into an era that is little talked about in US history.

  • Mark
    2019-02-10 15:01

    The reasons I can pick up or purchase a book veer from recommendation and suggestion, which seems normal and sensible, through its association or appearance in a previous read, understandable and explicable, or its fabulous title, thank you Dan...up to it's being a lovely looking book. Whenever i go to Hay on Wye, a marvelous town on the welsh/english border containing 37second hand book shops, I cringe at the shops that sell leather bound books by the foot or metre so as to populate some wealthy non-readers library and yet every now and again I have to recognize that i have bought books purely because of how they look or feel in the hand. This long intro is to explain why I came to be reading this first novel of Julie Otsuka speaking of the little known action by the American Authorities after Pearl Harbour in which they forcibly removed from their homes and imprisoned in desert camps japanese americans for the duration of the war. All I can say is i am so pleased i like nice looking things. Great, great book. Goes to prove you can judge some books by their covers.The unnamed family, quiet, unassuming and industrious, is suddenly ripped apart by the high-handed panic of the Government. The husband/father taken off in bathrobe and slippers for interrogation and, as we would guess from his state five years later, abuse and shortly afterwards his wife and two young children are herded onto trains with other prisoners, guilty of nothing more than having differently shaped eyes, different coloured skin and taken to concentration camps in the deserts of Utah.This is the story. Nothing more happens then their being taken away, imprisoned and then returned and yet everything does change. The cruel brutality of prejudice and rejection seen through the eyes of two children growing to maturity with the over-riding feelings of unstated guilt and blame for being different, the way in which certainty and acceptance can be dragged from under the feet of a woman previously secure in her comfortable lifestyle by her simply having been born in the wrong country; the future and humour and repsect of a man being drained or washed out of him simply because he isn't white. Otsuka does not dwell on vicious violence or discrimination. She does not hold forth at great length on the behaviour of 'the other', all she does is simply, quietly and very movingly place before the reader the hidden results of prejudice and blind fear by allowing us entry into the tragedy of one hidden family. It is beautifuuly understated and incredibly moving for that. The relationship of the brother and sister is wonderfully real. At one point the boy who adores wild horses watches them as they run by the side of the train taking the family to their prison. Weeks later, as they eat their stew and he wolfs it down enthusiastically he asks his sister where the cooks have got the meat. She answers drily. 'You rememeber those mustangs we were watching .....its them'. This sort of natural digging and teasing Otsuka does well. The girl is a great creation, dry, cooly witty and yet very vulnerable. She also communicates the burden of guilt the children take on as they think it must be their fault, something they did or even they begin to look to the memory of their father and wonder whether he is the guilty party. Yet it is the relationship of the mother and father that breaks your heart. They hardly meet in the novel because it covers their enforced seperation but you feel their love. You see his guilt for failing to fulfill his marital promises, you know of her sorrow at her casual indifference to a request he made for a glass of water hours before he was taken and how this indifference cripples her but it is the beautifully simple reunion on the train station that tears you.'He put down his suitcase and looked at her."Did you...." she said"Every day," he replied. Then he got down on his knees and he took us into his arms and over and over again, he uttered our names, but still we could not be sure it was him'This probably seems nothing but Otsuka moves to this moment and it is a stroke of genius

  • Teresa
    2019-01-24 11:08

    3.75While not as lyrical as The Buddha in the Attic, Otsuka’s first novel achieves much of the same cumulative power. The penultimate chapter, written in first-person plural, is, of course, most reminiscent of the former and perhaps in its writing Otsuka discovered the style she would later use for The Buddha in the Attic. But it is the last and shortest chapter that packs the hardest punch, pointing out even more so the absurdness, danger and sadness of this time (a time that could come again if we’re not careful). But that last chapter doesn't stand on its own: it does because of what’s come before, that cumulative power.

  • Yukino
    2019-01-22 14:10

    Ero in biblioteca per riportare il Conte di Montecristo, ho fatto un giro tra gli scaffali e lo so, non dovevo, ma non ho resistito e l'ho preso ^^Questo libro è un pugno nello stomaco. E anche se di poche pagine ho fatto fatica a "digerirlo".Lei è sempre delicata, e pungente nello scrivere. A me piace molto la sua scrittura, anche se ammetto che è particolare, e all'inizio ci si deve fare un pò l'abitudine.Mentre nello scorso libro abbiamo una visione corale (il libro è scritto sempre in prima persona plurale) qui si alternano i punti di vista di una famiglia composta da madre e due bambini, un maschietto e una feminuccia di 10\8 anni, il cui padre, una notte dopo Pearl Harbor, è stato portato via dall'FBI. Il libro inizia con la lettura dell'ordine di evacuazione per tutti i giapponesi dalle città.E' straziante davvero leggere queste pagine che danno voce soprattutto ai pensieri dei due bambini. A come vedono e vivono quello che gli succede.Straziante le ultime due pagine con il racconto del padre.Non sappiamo come si chiamano. Ma non importa. E' una storia che riflette la storia di molte famiglie. In realtà sono tre stelle e mezzo. Non sono riuscita a dare le quattro stelle perchè anche se mi ha toccato molto, non mi ha rapito come lo scorso libro. Forse perchè mi ha dato sui nervi leggere la vera e cruda realtà. Queste storie mi fanno davvero arrabbiare. Possibile che l'uomo non impari mai?Gli Americani hanno preso parte alla guerra per combattere contro Hitler e che fanno? fanno la stessa cosa in casa loro? Vi giuro sono inca...nera!Da leggere per ricordare e non dimenticare.

  • Chrissie
    2019-02-08 16:48

    Assuming you have read the book description, you already know this book’s theme is the treatment of Japanese during WW2 and Japanese internment camps in the USA. It is more a study of the psychological than factual treatment of Japanese. You will not get historical facts or precise, detailed descriptions of the camps. What you will learn is how the Japanese Americans felt and how their war experiences changed them. You will feel the discrimination they experienced. This very short novel reads as a prose poem. Each sentence has more than one meaning. The writing is very straightforward and simple, except that you know without a doubt that what is being said is more than the straight forward, the obvious.Here is one example. In school, when the children had returned home after the war they were asked, as all kids are asked: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And the reply? “I’d like to be you.” So little is said, but so much is meant. The words are so simple and yet they have a huge impact.At the beginning the writing presents the characters in a detached manner. We are not even given the names of the mother, father and two children. They are spoken of as the girl, the boy, their father, the mother. I did not like this. I even thought this was perhaps a young adult novel. Were we being spared the grisly truths? However in the book, after the war, when the family was released from the internment camp and when the father was reunited with his family, that is when all the accusations and fears were shouted out. The contrast hits the reader like a slam in the face. When they returned to their old house and their old way of life, they are confronted with rampant discrimination. In the internment camps the barbed wire fences had separated them from it. The earlier detachment and now the honest truths were slammed up against each other. The author did this through her skill of composition. The tension you feel at the end is tremendous, the reader feels it all the more since so much has been suppressed in the earlier sections. That I give such a short novel four stars is remarkable. It says something about the writer’s skill.

  • Elyse
    2019-01-27 17:11

    With already so many wonderful reviews -- I'm going to just add one quote I thought about (something Jewish people often think about)"You can't remember everything", she said."And even if you can you shouldn't", said the girl"I wouldn't say that", said her mother"You didn't", said the girlnote: Sometimes find yourself reading a novel --its taking a lot of your concentration -- then you see a Goodreads friend post a beautiful review of a book you 'must' read....(you might even own it, which was the case with me) ....You feel so inspired --moved -So why wait?I didn't any longer --Very Powerful -- touching - devastating!

  • Barbara
    2019-02-11 12:54

    I am back for another taste of Julie Otsuka's writing. It's another trim one! She certainly has the knack of saying much with brevity and skill- and making her point (s)!**************************************************Many books have been written about the outrageous internment of Japanese Americans during WW II. There have been respectable treatments of this topic, such as Farewell to Manzanar, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Snow Falling on Cedars, to name a few. Julie Otsuka had given us a taste of this situation in her more recent book, The Buddha in the Attic . In this earlier novel, the reader learns about a family, whose names are never divulged, but whom we get to know well, from the period prior of their "exile" to their return home.Otsuka has applied her unique, lyrical style to the telling of this tale. With spare elegance she conveys the indignities, the unconscionable treatments and the sense of total loss and despair that is felt by the victims of the internment. The attitudes of the general public, the government, neighbors and purported friends are all shockingly revealed. The fact that she is able achieve this so well in her slim offerings and also evoke emotional responses, such as tears, is admirable and a wonderment.I eagerly look forward to reading future books written by this unique and gifted author.

  • Nick
    2019-01-16 19:07

    As I was pondering what to write about this slim, impressionistic book about America's internment of Japanese, including citizens, the leading candidate for one of the two major parties in the United States praised that painful and wrong-headed moment in our history. It is astonishing to me that anyone can think it acceptable for the national government to take any action on the basis of race or religion, and Julie Otsuka's book is a primer, not just on the venality but on the ineffectiveness of such projects. First is the wreckage suffered by a whole group, loss of job, family, opportunity, possessions. Second, is the disrespect--it is worth noting that a Japanese American unit was the most decorated, controlling for length of service and size, of any American military group in history; among its many accomplishments was saving the Lost Brigade surrounded by Germans. (Lest anyone think that the analogy to the current debate breaks down here, I have volunteered in refugee services, where I met Iraqis who lost their homes and their homeland and even saw members of their families murdered, all because they helped the American cause in their country). Then there is the loss to the nation, because of so many whose contribution was forfeited (though, Otsuka argues, individual Americans profited by seizing property from the absent Japanese). All of this Otsuka makes powerfully human not through a conventional narration, but through skillfully interwoven stories of nameless but individualized characters. Perhaps the most devastating part is the ending, a confession to all the national security offenses of which the Japanese were accused but that in fact none of them even thought of doing.

  • Amelia
    2019-02-07 16:03

    Of all the books I've read about the Japanese-American internment camps, this one wasn't my favorite. But I'd still recommend it. It focuses on a family - mom, dad, girl and boy - and how they dealt with the ordeal before, during and after. The family is forced to leave their home in California and stay in a camp in a Utah.The writing style was unique: unsentimental, simple and poetic. The story was gripping, but it was a bit choppy and left some holes. It's a short read, just under 145 pages, and there are only four chapters, each focusing on a different family member.You never find out their names, which made it a little hard to get attached to the characters. And it's a story where you want to get attached to the people. On the other hand, the Japanese sadly became nameless, faceless "enemies" of the war and the book really shows how they were not treated like humans. And that their story could fit with any Japanese family.

  • Arielle Walker
    2019-01-26 13:17

    Gorgeous in its spareness, and heartbreaking in its simplicity. This is, quite honestly, a history I knew nothing of previously (being miles and worlds away, and the school curriculum as hideously limited as it still is) but I think through Julie Otsuka can be learned so much more than any dry textbook could ever hope to teach.

  • Lorna
    2019-01-21 14:47

    When the Emperor Was Divine is a powerful book that portrays the internment of those of Japanese ancestry after the bombing of Pearl Harbor during World War II and is told from the perspective and point of view of the father who is taken from their Berkley, California home by the FBI and imprisoned in New Mexico for the duration of the war. We also get the points of view of the mother, the 11-year old girl and the 8-year old boy as they are transported to an internment camp in a desert in Utah and the subsequent years spent there. Otsuka's simple spare prose adds to the power and tragedy of this shameful period of time in our history.

  • Lisa
    2019-01-18 15:05

    After reading "The Buddha in the Attic" by Julie Otsuka, I was interested in reading this book. As in the first book, "When the Emperor Was Divine" is prose that reads like poetry. It is so delicately expressed that it feels like a pen and ink brush painting. Nevertheless, the book deals with a subject rarely discussed - the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. While "The Buddha in the Attic" deals with the whole Japanese immigrant experience leading up to the internment, "When the Emperor Was Divine" deals with the internment itself. This book is a must read about a subject probably deliberately ignored - a shameful period in our history that we have yet to collectively acknowledge and apologize for.

  • Liz Janet
    2019-01-20 10:48

    I had never read a book about Japanese relocation camps, at least not works of fiction, and now I know why. It is not because I would not feel a connection, which what most people have told me, or because this author is not as popular as others on this particular sub-genre, but because I did not want to experience the "move" from the perspective of children, who were not spared this fate, even if their families were not "traitors." The U.S. likes to forget this moment in history, we focus on the Holocaust of Nazi Germany and the POW camps, we do not like to think we had those here as well, it hurts our pride too much.

  • Mahsa
    2019-02-06 14:55

    "شبی که دستگیرش کردند، ازم خواست براش یه لیوان آب بریزم. تازه رفته بودیم به رخت خواب. خیلی خسته بودم، خیلی. برای همین بهش گفتم خودش بره برای خودش آب بریزه. اون هم گفت: "ولش کن." بعد گرفت خوابید. چند ساعت بعد، اومدن و بردنش. همه ش فکر می کنم یه وقت تشنه نباشه.""حتما تو ایستگاه بهش آب دادن""باید خودم براش آب میبردم.""خب آخه تو خبر نداشتی.""حتی حالا هم، توی خواب می بینم آب میخواد، تشنه است."روایت تلخ اسارت و اجبار، روایت سال های دور از خانه و پدر، روایت احساس تلخ تبعیض...خوندن از تاریخ، خوندن از تاریخِ وحشی گری انسان ها میتونه خیلی وحشتناک باشه... درست مثل این کتاب.داستان از دوره ی جنگ جهانی دوم مینویسه، از اسارت شهروندان ژاپنی-آمریکایی... از روزهایی در سال ۱۹۴۲ که هزاران ژاپنی باید خونه و زندگی‌شون رو رها کرده و به اردوگاهی میان بیابان‌های یوتا برن.وحشتناک نیست؟ اینکه از هم نوع هات خنجر بخوری، اینکه ارزشت بعنوان یک انسان گم بشه میون رنگ پوستت... میون خون توی رگ هات.این قصه یه قصه ی تلخه... قصه ی دلتنگی یه مادر برای آشپزخونه ش؛ قصه ی دلتنگی یه پسر برای پدرش، قصه ی پدری که حتی اگه برگرده سال ها پیر شده و زخمیه، و قصه ی دلتنگی آدم ها برای درخت، برای سایه، برای زندگی...

  • Anna [Floanne]
    2019-02-02 15:53

    Avevo già avuto modo di apprezzare lo stile della Otsuka in Venivamo tutte per mare, ma in questo breve romanzo, secondo me, fa un notevole salto di qualità. Narrando con frasi essenziali, ma meno telegrafiche del precedente romanzo, accende i riflettori su una vergognosa pagina di storia americana : l'internamento da parte del governo americano dei cittadini di origine giapponese che seguì l'attacco di Pearl Harbour. Quelli che fino al giorno prima erano cittadini americani a tutti gli effetti - buoni vicini di casa, piccoli commercianti, uomini d'affari, studenti- furono reclusi in vari campi, sparsi in mezzo al deserto (il più famoso quello di Topaz nello Utah) con l'unica colpa di essere giapponesi e furono costretti a vivere in baracche di lamiera in condizioni al limite della decenza. Alla fine della guerra questi prigionieri tornarono alla normalità, per scoprire però di aver perso tutto, dalla casa ai propri risparmi di una vita, oltre alla dignità. "Quando l'imperatore era un dio" è la storia dolorosa di una delle tante famiglie che dovettero subire questa umiliazione. Molto bello.

  • Jeanette
    2019-01-16 16:55

    This is a very fast and worthwhile read about a Japanese family who suffers the indignities of the World War II internment camps here in the U.S. This book can easily be read in two or three hours if you have uninterrupted time. The construction is rather floaty and impressionistic rather than linear, but the prose is good and clean and easy to follow. Prior to reading this, I'd only read about the Manzanar camp in California. So it was interesting to read about the Topaz camp in Utah. The last 40 pages or so are a little more traditionally written and very interesting, if heartbreaking. This section deals with their return to California after 3 1/2 years in the camp, and their attempts to resume their old life. If you also want to read a book with a little more concrete information about this subject, try Farewell to Manzanar. The writing is not as pretty, but it fills in the gaps. Heck, read both books. They're short.

  • Roberta
    2019-02-07 17:15

    La storia è fatta dai vincitori, quindi è ovvio che si sappia poco dei campi di internamento giapponesi in USA. D'altrone in Europa c'erano altri campi, con finalità ben diverse, ad aver catturaro tutta l'attenzione. Julie Otsuka, con lo stesso stile delicato ma meno frammentato di Venivamo tutte per mare, racconta tale internamento dal punto di vista di una famiglia di 4 persone: madre, padre, un figlio e una figlia. I genitori sono immigrati, ma i figli si sentono solo americani (non parlano nemmeno giapponese). Eppure la loro vita tranquilla viene stravolta in poche ore, quando il padre è portato via, di notte e senza nemmeno dargli il tempo di vestirsi, in un contesto kafkiano dove nulla si sa della ragione di un tal gesto.La madre è una donna forte e orgogliosa e tira avanti fino alla comparsa di volantini in cui si annuncia che tutti i cittadini di origine nipponica dovranno trovarsi a un centro di raccolta in un certo giorno. Il romanzo inizia appunto con la signora che prepara la casa prima della partenza, con la mente già orientata al ritorno. Ma nel viaggio, e nella permanenza nei vari campi, la forza di questa donna viene erosa. Tutto, specialmente la vita del bambino, ruota attorno all'attesa per quel padre portato via senza motivo. La normalità di prima diventa mito, diventa una mancanza dolorosa che la nuova routine non riesce a limitare. Quando poi la situazione si risolve il ritorno alla normalità delude, perché la normalità ricordata e rielaborata ha poco a che vedere con la realtà. Davvero un ottimo racconto

  • Vipassana
    2019-02-06 17:16

    We would change our names to sound more like theirs. And if our mother called out to us on the street by our real names we would turn away and pretend not to know her. We would never be mistaken for the enemy again.A historical novel based on forced relocation and incarceration of Japanese Americans as a result of the bombing of Pearl Harbour. Julie Otsuka's grandfather was arrested as a spy and the grandmother, mother and uncle lived in the internment camp in the Utah desert. This novella is narrated by an unnamed boy, who would be the equivalent of Otsuka's uncle, and covers both the camp, which is really a euphemism for prison, and their struggles settling back into society.This is a history lesson particularly so as it is not a narration of the Japanese Americans who had it worst, but who had it bad none the less. It gives Otsuka's tale a special authority because she didn't choose to take a historically dark event and fill it in with all the misfortunes happening to one person or family. That is often the route taken by authors whose ancestors faced war or oppression and it riles me to no end. The prose is simple, perhaps too simple, but this novella is a valuable cautionary tale against reactionary measures.

  • Bam
    2019-01-18 11:51

    An excellent book about the Japanese-American experience following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, told through the experiences of one unnamed family--from the father being taken away in the middle of the night for questioning by the FBI, to the mother and children's internment in a camp in Utah, and finally their return to their home in Berkeley, CA, after three years and five months, and the reception they received in the community. The last chapter is the father's 'confession.' The writing is simple, almost terse, which perfectly expresses the bleakness of their experiences.

  • Sandra Zaid
    2019-02-11 13:06

    Phenomenal. Atypical prose. I was going to give this book 3 stars when on chapter 2...but this book just gets deeper and deeper into the heart of the historical fiction that it ends as a brilliantly done piece of Lit fully deserving a 5 star rating.Read it. Read it.

  • The Captain
    2019-01-31 14:01

    Ahoy there me mateys! I have no idea where I first heard about this novel but it it was kismet to have picked it up to read. Ye see when I was perusing the news, I read a fascinating (and depressing) piece on the Japanese internment camps of WWII. Later that same day, I picked up this novel thinking it would be a young adult novel but found instead a fantastic historical fiction book about a Japanese family in America and how WWII affected them.Ye see this story was "based on Otsuka’s own family history: her grandfather was arrested by the FBI as a suspected spy for Japan the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, and her mother, uncle and grandmother spent three years in an internment camp in Topaz, Utah." Yet the novel is told from multi-person perspective of a single family who remain nameless in the novel.I don't know how to do this book justice - it was that good. I found this novel to be evocative, lyrical, haunting, engaging, and heart wrenching. I read it in one sitting and found meself avoiding picking up another book and pondering the ramifications in what I had read for a couple days before I could even begin to process the effects of this book on my being. And yet I continue to fail at capturing its resonance despite this effort of putting me thoughts down.This dark period in United States history was captured beautifully and soul-crushingly in this author's work. Especially in the details. Small details helped me feel the horror of the family's pain. Images of slippers, the smell of horses in the racetrack stalls where the family was forced to live, a single rosebush. The last chapter in particular was extremely powerful.Words truly fail me. But I recommend this one without a doubt.Check out me other reviews at https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordp...