Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Finds: WHEN THE EMPEROR WAS DIVINE by Julie Otsuka

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I'm not sure where I "discovered" this novel, but I was immediately attracted by the beautiful and serene cover image. Turns out this top image is from the 2002 hardcover edition and the bottom image is the trade paperback.

Apparently, when the novel was first published, it was something of a groundbreaker. From the description, it sounds like a powerful story, and from the awards it has won, it is obviously a good choice for teens.

I really enjoyed Jamie Ford's HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, and I recently completed GIRL IN TRANSLATION by Jean Kwok. I think I'll be reading WHEN THE EMPEROR WAS DIVINE very soon.

Has anyone read this one? What did you think of it?

by Julie Otsuka

Pub. Date: October 2003
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Format: Paperback, 160pp
ISBN-13: 9780385721813
ISBN: 0385721811
Edition Description: Reprint

Description (from the publisher):
Julia Otsuka’s quietly disturbing novel opens with a woman reading a sign in a post office window. It is Berkeley, California, the spring of 1942. Pearl Harbor has been attacked, the war is on, and though the precise message on the sign is not revealed, its impact on the woman who reads it is immediate and profound. It is, in many ways she cannot yet foresee, a sign of things to come. She readies herself and her two young children for a journey that will take them to the high desert plains of Utah and into a world that will shatter their illusions forever. They travel by train and gradually the reader discovers that all on board are Japanese American, that the shades must be pulled down at night so as not to invite rock-throwing, and that their destination is an internment camp where they will be imprisoned “for their own safety” until the war is over. With stark clarity and an unflinching gaze, Otsuka explores the inner lives of her main characters—the mother, daughter, and son—as they struggle to understand their fate and long for the father whom they have not seen since he was whisked away, in slippers and handcuffs, on the evening of Pearl Harbor.

Moving between dreams, memories, and sharply emblematic moments, WHEN THE EMPEROR WAS DIVINE reveals the dark underside of a period in American history that, until now, has been left largely unexplored in American fiction.

Click here to read an excerpt.

WINNER - Booklist Editor's Choice for Young Adults
WINNER - New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age
WINNER - ALA Alex Award
WINNER 2003 - Asian American Literary Award

About the author (from the publisher):
Julie Otsuka was born in Palo Alto and studied art at Yale University. After pursuing a career as a painter, she turned to fiction at age 30. One of her short stories was included in Scribner’s Best of the Fiction Workshops 1998, edited by Carol Shields. WHEN THE EMPEROR WAS DIVINE is her first novel.


bermudaonion said...

The book sounds really good. I like the hardback cover a whole lot more than the trade paperback cover.

Zibilee said...

Oh, this one does sound very good! I loved the synopsis, and do have to agree with both you and Kathy, the hardback cover is much nicer! Going to be looking for this one!