Saturday, October 13, 2007

Laura's Review - When the Emperor was Divine

When the Emperor was Divine
Julie Otsuka
144 pages

First sentence: The sign had appeared overnight.

Reflections: Imagine that a member of your family is taken away in the middle of the night, wearing only his robe and slippers. When the Emperor was Divine tells the story of a Japanese-American family immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Each chapter is written from a different point of view: the mother who, after reading a public notice, systematically packs belongings and hides beloved family treasures. The daughter, travelling by train to the internment camp. The son, coping with daily living in the camp. And both children, upon returning to their home, school, and town:

We used to try and imagine what it would be like when we returned home. Our phone would ring off the hook. (How was it?) Neighborhood ladies bearing angel food cakes would line up at our front door to welcome us back (Yoo hoo, we know you're in there!). ... We would accept all invitations. Go everywhere. ... But of course it did not happen like that.

Julie Otsuka's slim novel captures the emotion and trauma of this dark period in American history. The country was reeling from an attack on its own soil. Those resembling the attackers were considered evil spies. Citizens of specific ethnic origin were rounded up and sent to camps -- prisons, really -- ostensibly to protect the American people.

Is this really any different from the country's response to the events of September 11, 2001? Will we ever learn? ( )

My original review can be found here.


alisonwonderland said...

i read this one earlier this year. i liked it. my review is here.

Kristen said...

This sounds heartbreaking, and totally relevant to today. Books about this time period in America are painful to read, but so necessary; I'll definitely add it to my list.