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When the Emperor Was Divine  By  cover art

When the Emperor Was Divine

By: Julie Otsuka
Narrated by: Elaina Erika Davis
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Publisher's summary

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 they 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.

©2003 Julie Otsuka (P)2003 Random House, Inc., Random House Audio, A Division of Random House, Inc.

Critic reviews

  • Alex Award Winner, 2003

"Exceptional...Otsuka skillfully dramatizes a world suddenly foreign...[Her] incantatory, unsentimental prose is the book's greatest strength." (The New Yorker)
"The novel's honesty and matter-of-fact tone in the face of inconceivable injustice are the source of its power." (Publishers Weekly)
"Mesmerizing." (The New York Times)

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In 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, mandating the removal of Japanese Americans from their homes. Nearly 120,000 Japanese immigrants and native born Japanese Americans were imprisoned in concentration camps for the duration of World War II. We need to bear witness to the atrocities committed by the United States government and the pain our leadership caused innocent men, women, and children of Japanese heritage.