When the Emperor was Divine

by Julie Otsuka

About the Book

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 the story of one Japanese American family from five flawlessly realized points of view—the mother receiving the order to evacuate; the daughter on the long train ride to the camp; the son in the desert encampment; the family’s return to their home; and the bitter release of the father after almost four years in captivity.

About the Author

Julie Otsuka was born and raised in California. After studying art as an undergraduate at Yale University she pursued a career as a painter for several years before turning to fiction writing at age 30. She received her MFA from Columbia. She is a recipient of the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Asian American Literary Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and was a finalist for the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
Otsuka’s fiction has been published in Granta, Harper’s, 100 Years of The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Short Stories 2012, The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012, and has been read aloud on PRI’s “Selected Shorts” and BBC Radio 4’s “Book at Bedtime.”

Related Events

Japanese Garden Tour at Federik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

Tuesday, June 27, 2017, 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm
Saturday, August 12, 2017, 9:30 am and 10:30 am
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park – 1000 East Beltline Ave NE

This 1-hour outdoor tour will explore the 8-acre Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden. Learn about the traditional elements and structures used in a Japanese garden and discover the thought-provoking contemporary sculptures that make this Japanese Garden so unique. Space is limited.

Tickets will be available near the admission desk. Please see GRPL staff member 1/2 hour before each tour. You must present your GRPL library card to receive tickets.

From a Silk Cocoon: a Japanese American Story

Tuesday, August 8, 2017, 7:00 pm
Main Library – 111 Library St NE

Labeled as “disloyal” and deemed “enemy aliens dangerous to public peace and safety of the United States,” Dr. Satsuki Ina’s American-born parents struggled to prove their innocence and fight deportation while held in separate American concentration camps during World War II. Dr. Ina will share excerpts from her parents’ letters, diaries, and haiku poetry to recount the frightening and tragic outcomes resulting from wartime hysteria and racial profiling. Chilling similarities of events from 75 years ago, the psychotherapist and documentary filmmaker will also share her current experience with Central American women and children being held in prisons in South Texas.

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