When the Emperor Was Divine
By Julie Otsuka
This book was published back in 2002 by Anchor Books. It is very short at only 144 pages. I read it in one sitting!! While this book is brief, it packs a powerful punch. It has a lasting impact. Otsuka is an important voice that needs to be heard. I thought that her story telling voice was familiar and I was right. She is the author of the Buddha in the Attic. I remember reading that one and enjoying it.
This is the story of one Japanese family in California after the outbreak of World War II. The father is snatched away one night. Then a couple of days later the mother and the two children are sent to a holding area in a stable and then on to Utah to an internment camp. This is a testament to a shameful period in our U.S. history. I certainly did not learn about this in my history classes. This is something that should be acknowledged and discussed. We are given no character names, but yet we come to know the characters well in the story. We learn of the poor treatment and the poor conditions that these people were forced to endure as Japanese-American citizens. These people were good hard-working every day people who were now held suspect.
I found this to be well written. Since it is short and thought provoking it would be great for book clubs. It is fast paced and moves right along. Great book for a U.S. history class, because it is easy to follow and understand. How would you feel if you were taken away from your family, friends, home and possessions for years to return home to nothing? That had to be devastating and painful both emotionally and financially. Giving them 25 dollars a person does not make up for the shame, loss of respect and poor treatment that they endured!! I give this book a 4 out of 5 stars.