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This historical novel is both gorgeous and heartbreaking It follows a Japanese American family that is sent to an internment camp in the Utah desert during World War II The story follows the family as they get the news of the forced relocation, the trip to the camp, how they lived in the barracks, and finally, afterthan three years of incarceration, their return home I appreciated this novel because the Japanese internment is a dark chapter of U.S history, and one that seems overlooked This historical novel is both gorgeous and heartbreaking It follows a Japanese American family that is sent to an internment camp in the Utah desert during World War II The story follows the family as they get the news of the forced relocation, the trip to the camp, how they lived in the barracks, and finally, afterthan three years of incarceration, their return home I appreciated this novel because the Japanese internment is a dark chapter of U.S history, and one that seems overlooked in school textbooks Otsuka s writing is beautiful, and her prose is so lyrical that at times it feels poetic I had read her other novel The Buddha in the Attic, which follows a group of Japanese women immigrating to America, and it is also gorgeous and heartbreaking I highly recommend both of these novels to anyone interested in the perspective of Japanese Americans.Favorite Quote We used to live in the desert We used to wake, every morning, to the blast of a siren We used to stand in line for our meals three times a day We used to stand in line for our mail We used to stand in line to get coal We used to stand in line whenever we had to shower or use the latrine We used to hear the wind hissing day and night through the sagebrush We used to hear coyotes We used to hear every word spoken by our neighbors on the other side of the thin barrack wall We used to try and imagine what it would be like when we finally returned home I love Otsuka s voice, judicious metaphors, and understated emotional hooks in this child s eye view of the Japanese internment in World War 2 I have already had the pleasure of her 2011 gem, The Buddha in the Attic , which covers the same subject from an adult perspective that often breaks into powerful incantation in a broad we mode In this novella eight years earlier, the narrative tends to beconventional, yet it still has fresh and lyrical approaches for portraying this sad chapte I love Otsuka s voice, judicious metaphors, and understated emotional hooks in this child s eye view of the Japanese internment in World War 2 I have already had the pleasure of her 2011 gem, The Buddha in the Attic , which covers the same subject from an adult perspective that often breaks into powerful incantation in a broad we mode In this novella eight years earlier, the narrative tends to beconventional, yet it still has fresh and lyrical approaches for portraying this sad chapter in American history.The boy of focus in the tale is eight at the time after Pearl Harbor when his father gets taken away from his Berkeley home by the FBI in the middle of the night Because he was known to have a Shinto shrine with a picture of Emperor Hirohito, he was treated as a likely spy and later interned in a high security camp in New Mexico The rest of the family the boy, mother, and sister is shipped to a camp in the high desert of Utah The confused packing for the unknown and the shock of suddenly leaving friends and a beloved dog behind are touchingly presented from the boy s perspective The families are housed for the next three and a half years in austere barracks surrounded with barbed wire fencing manned by armed guards That members of the family are not named makes them stand in for all American Japanese The family makes do the best they can, enduring the heat in the summer, the cold in the winter, maintaining their dignity despite underground rivers of shame and sense of unjust treatment by their adopted country At first the rules for the boy are simple On their first day in the desert his mother had said, Be careful Do not touch the barbed wire fence, she had said, or talk to the guards in the towers Do not stare at the sun And, remember, never say the Emperor s name out loudThe rest of the review gives samples of their experiences with quotes of Otsuka s succinct and often poetic prose Some may consider that a spoiler If so, skip to the last paragraph In subtle ways, Otsuka reveals their sense of erasure Always, he would remember the dust It was soft and white and chalky, like talcum powder Only the alkaline made your skin burn It made your nose bleed It made your eyes sting It took your voice away The dust got into your shoes Your hair Your pants Your mouth Your bed.Your dreams One evening, before he went to bed, he wrote his name in the dust across the top of the table All through the night, while he slept,dust blew through the walls.By morning his name was gone.Part of the key to survival is through imagination All night long he dreamed of water Endless days of rain Overflowing canals and rivers and streams rushing down to the sea On the morning he woke up longing for a glass of Coke Just one, with lots of ice, and a straw He d sip it slowly He d make it last a long time.A day A week A year, even.The family gets periodic letters from the father, but most of the writing is blanked out by censors The boy tries hard to keep his father s memory alive it choked me up pretty effectively He was extremely polite Whenever he walked into a room he closed the door behind him softly He was always on time He wore beautiful suits and did not yell at waiters He loved pistachio nuts He believed that fruit juice was the ideal drink He liked to doodle Sometimes he thought he was dreaming, and he was sure that when he woke up his father would be downstairs in the kitchen whistling Begin the Beguine through his teeth as he fried up breakfast in the skillet Here it comes, champ, his father would say, one hobo egg sandwich Eventually able bodied men in the camp are recruited to help with the harvests in the western states Despite a bit of normalcy in the work, there wasstigma to face outside They said the signs in the windows were the same wherever they went NO JAPS ALLOWED Life was easier, they said, on this side of the fence.And every week they heard new rumors and final solutions for their fate The men and women would be put into separate camps They would be sterilized They would be stripped of their citizenship They would be taken out onto the high seas and shot No wonder the families were susceptible to such thoughts, given the distortions and contradictions of the official statements of justification for their treatment You ve been brought here for your own protection, they were told.It was all in the interest of national security.It was a matter of military necessity.It was an opportunity for them to prove their loyalty.When the war was over, I can t imagine how things could ever be normal again for the families returning to their communities Former acquaintances pretend not to see them The boy can barely recognize his father when he returns months later, as he seems so aged and broken Still, they persist with brave resilience, and a new resolve emerges Nothing s changed, we said to ourselves The war had been an interruption, nothingWe would pick up our lives where we had left off and go on We would join their clubs, after school, if they would let us We would listen to their music We would dress just like they did We would change our names to soundlike theirs We would never be mistaken for the enemy again This slipping into first person plural is a great breakout and preview to The Buddha in the Attic The we for me evokes the whole human race for all the expedient but inhumane solutions committed around the world to deal with the mistrust between peoples Even in the case of genocides, it helps me a lot to think that we all are responsible for committing these acts and not give in to distancing ourselves from them by thinking in terms of they and then How do you write about trauma Are you verbose and expansive Terse and straighforward In this case, you use elegant and spare prose that brings home the extent of the wrong by never quite stating it in so many words Note The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement You can read why I came to this decision here.In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook How do you write about trauma Are you verbose and expansive Terse and straighforward In this case, you use elegant and spare prose that brings home the extent of the wrong by never quite stating it in so many words Note The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement You can read why I came to this decision here.In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook When the Emperor Was Divine, Julie OtsukaWhen the Emperor was Divine is a historical fiction novel written by American author Julie Otsuka about a Japanese American family sent to an internment camp in the Utah desert during World War II The novel, loosely based on the wartime experiences of Otsuka s mother s family, is written through the perspective of four family members, detailing their eviction from California and their time in camp It is Otsuka s debut novel, and was published in the Uni When the Emperor Was Divine, Julie OtsukaWhen the Emperor was Divine is a historical fiction novel written by American author Julie Otsuka about a Japanese American family sent to an internment camp in the Utah desert during World War II The novel, loosely based on the wartime experiences of Otsuka s mother s family, is written through the perspective of four family members, detailing their eviction from California and their time in camp It is Otsuka s debut novel, and was published in the United States in 2002 by Alfred A Knopf 2015 1393 120 21 14 9786006687957 21 ( Ebook ) ☲ When the Emperor Was Divine ♸ Julie Otsuka s commanding debut novel paints a portrait of the Japanese internment camps unlike any we have ever seen With crystalline intensity and precision, Otsuka uses a single family to evoke the deracination both physical and emotional of a generation of Japanese Americans In five chapters, each flawlessly executed from a different point 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 than four years in captivity she has created a small tour de force, a novel of unrelenting economy and suppressed emotion Spare, intimate, arrestingly understated, When the Emperor Was Divine is a haunting evocation of a family in wartime and an unmistakably resonant lesson for our times It heralds the arrival of a singularly gifted new novelist From the Hardcover edition I recognize that the terse language, namelessness of the characters, and relatively uneventful plot in Julie Otsuka s When the Emperor was Divine are all aesthetic choices They re just not choices that I agree with.Otsuka details the experiences of a family of Japanese Americans placed in an internment camp during World War II It s an engaging topic, one not overly explored in American historical fiction, but her methods of conveying the important story only serve to undermine the urgency of t I recognize that the terse language, namelessness of the characters, and relatively uneventful plot in Julie Otsuka s When the Emperor was Divine are all aesthetic choices They re just not choices that I agree with.Otsuka details the experiences of a family of Japanese Americans placed in an internment camp during World War II It s an engaging topic, one not overly explored in American historical fiction, but her methods of conveying the important story only serve to undermine the urgency of the message The family is taken away, spend most of their time reminiscing about their old home and missing father, and then they go home And, outside of a brief first person rant from the father that ends the book, we re given very little in terms of the emotional turmoil of the characters.Which is unfortunate, because Otsuka has a gift for describing longing, a note she hits well, over and over The scenery is nicely described and glimpses are given into the characters dreams But there s so little here the page count doesn t break 200 , and the dearth of information left me a little cold.It s a shameful piece of American history, one that deserves exploration, but the book can t float on that alone The reader has no sense of why this family is important, or perhaps a sense of what makes their experiences unique and engaging I get the impression that I m just expected to extrapolate all of that Keep in mind I m not looking for this book to be Dan Browned I just want to know these characters a littlethoroughly As it stands, they appear merely as sketches I finished reading When the Emperor Was Divine a couple of days ago, and I was at a loss for words for my review Everything that I noticed, felt, and appreciated about the denseness of this sparse little book was neatly encapsulated in the synopsis of this edition Check it out if you haven t already.Anyway, part of my goals this year is to review every single book I read, and so OCD got the better of me, and here I am now How can I sum up this book without being redundant Simply this this i I finished reading When the Emperor Was Divine a couple of days ago, and I was at a loss for words for my review Everything that I noticed, felt, and appreciated about the denseness of this sparse little book was neatly encapsulated in the synopsis of this edition Check it out if you haven t already.Anyway, part of my goals this year is to review every single book I read, and so OCD got the better of me, and here I am now How can I sum up this book without being redundant Simply this this is a book that needs to be read at some point in your life It s a part of silent history, because as of today we have yet know all the different ways Japanaese American families were affected during this pivotal time of American history Life didn t just resume like it had before People were changed Familes were displaced Belongings were lost Spirits were broken Even though this was Otsuka s debut novel, I m glad I read her follow up first In retrospect, The Buddah in the Attic almost seems like a prequel Either way, you can t go wrong with either one of these books They re short novellas, and for a somewhat slow reader, I was able to finish both in one to two sittings Check them out if you get a chance As of this moment, there are various rules and regulations being pushed through the US government regarding the formation of internment camps for refugees fleeing through the US Mexican border from the drug wars of the USA s creation There s nothing new under the sun here, nothing beyond the standard protocol of a country that has been at war for 214 of the 235 years of its existence and has only increased the size of its playground over time What that last part translates to is the fire and t As of this moment, there are various rules and regulations being pushed through the US government regarding the formation of internment camps for refugees fleeing through the US Mexican border from the drug wars of the USA s creation There s nothing new under the sun here, nothing beyond the standard protocol of a country that has been at war for 214 of the 235 years of its existence and has only increased the size of its playground over time What that last part translates to is the fire and the frying pan, friends I ve made who thought US imperialism had to be better than Chinese communism, targets of hate crimes who cannot go back where they came from if they don t want to be killed by drones, each and every person who both knew and had no idea what it takes to live in this land depending on the color of skin and the mode of accent and history Always the history The average citizen may not know the name of every president, but the pecking order they have, are, and will continue to bequeath is inherent.Military industrial complex What this means is ads for the Navy before Pixar movies as many little lights as there are stars as there are threats on the globe, and that, my friend, is everywhere , minuscule reservations for 562 indigenous nations in one of the largest spans of terrorism the world has ever seen, a continual us versus them in entertainment, school curriculum, the percentage of translations allotted in the literature market not the subtitles anything but the subtitles and the number of white people teaching yoga, karate, and whatever else the fads of cultural appropriation has spat up over the centuries This book talks about Pearl Harbor, my times talk about 9 11, and anyone who wants to argue for why what came after was made acceptable by those events needs to read, read, and keep reading the promises being made in never ending payback The moment you cannot keep looking at the genocides being wrought in the name of that particular much named event is the moment you need to ask yourself what the actual fuck is going on.Culture clash The US versus Japan Those caught and balanced between two countries that each in their own way loathe the Other within their land and that is the last thing I will say about the latter of the two cause, trust me, my side s got enough with the slurs, the rape fetishes, the white scholars making bank off of Orientalization, the concentration camp histories gone over in this tome and the military bases in Okinawa It is one of many power plays constantly calculating how far the white US citizen can go in their treatment of this country, that religion, those people, their face, taking what they please and shaming what they know because there re few things in this world that make money faster than fear I told you It s an industry Look at the correlation between when non European countries gained their independence and when European countries got poor then dwell upon colonies, settler states, and Manifest Destiny.Berkeley and Bay Area co re popularly known as the liberal bastion of the US, home of the multicultural friendlies and open minded folks and a UC that can t seem to take the rapists on its campus seriously despite multiple lawsuits and the governmental like Between that and this and what is yet to come in the policies of the foreign and the domestic and the Idol of Enemy Number One, what is there to be done 3.75While not as lyrical as The Buddha in the Attic, Otsuka s first novel achieves much of the same cumulative power The penultimate chapter, written in first person plural, is, of course, most reminiscent of the former and perhaps in its writing Otsuka discovered the style she would later use for The Buddha in the Attic But it is the last and shortest chapter that packs the hardest punch, pointing out evenso the absurdness, danger and sadness of this time a time that could come again i 3.75While not as lyrical as The Buddha in the Attic, Otsuka s first novel achieves much of the same cumulative power The penultimate chapter, written in first person plural, is, of course, most reminiscent of the former and perhaps in its writing Otsuka discovered the style she would later use for The Buddha in the Attic But it is the last and shortest chapter that packs the hardest punch, pointing out evenso the absurdness, danger and sadness of this time a time that could come again if we re not careful But that last chapter doesn t stand on its own it does because of what s come before, that cumulative power This is a difficult book to read, as well it should be, a book of loneliness, deep sadness and alienation during an episode of fairly recent history During World War II, in fact, mere months after Pearl Harbor, thousands of Japanese residents of the United States were labeled enemy aliens and removed from their homes, transported across country to camps set up in the middle of the desert, inhospitable spots of searing heat in the summer and terrible cold in the winter This book is the story of This is a difficult book to read, as well it should be, a book of loneliness, deep sadness and alienation during an episode of fairly recent history During World War II, in fact, mere months after Pearl Harbor, thousands of Japanese residents of the United States were labeled enemy aliens and removed from their homes, transported across country to camps set up in the middle of the desert, inhospitable spots of searing heat in the summer and terrible cold in the winter This book is the story of one family, a mother, daughter and son, for the father has been removed separately We readers witness the break up of the home, the reactions of neighbors, the long, long train trip and then arrival in what will be a new home for however long.This is a spare book, a novella really, but every page is packed with earned emotion.Highly recommended glimpse into an era that is little talked about in US history