My Little Pocketbooks: Review: When the Emperor was Divine   

Monday, June 1, 2015

Review: When the Emperor was Divine

When the Emperor was Divine
Author: Julie Otsuka
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher:  Random House Audio
Release Date: October 16, 2003
Audiobook: 3 hours and 26 minutes
Narrator: Elaina Erika Davis
Source: Free from the e-Library

Book Description

The debut novel from the PEN/Faulkner Award Winning Author of The Buddha in the Attic
On a sunny day in Berkeley, California, in 1942, a woman sees a sign in a post office window, returns to her home, 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 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.


After reading and reviewing The Buddha in the Attic I was interested in finding more books by Julie Otsuka.  "When the Emperor was Divine" is a continuation (since I read this one second) from the first book kind of.  In this book the time period and the location is the same.  This story follows one family after Pearl Harbor as they are forced to move along with the other Japanese Americans in the US to internment camps.  Julie Otsuka also gives the reader a glimpse into their lives as they return home to find the world, their towns and their neighbors have changed.
I really liked this one.  It complements the other book so well.  The author has a great way of detailing the experience without being overly wordy which I love.  She lets the reader see the horrors of racism through the innocence of a child.  "The Buddha in the Attic" was told in first person plural  but this short story was just about one one generation household missing the father.
While this audiobook was short it covered a lot of time during the families lifetime.  The narrator Elaina Erika Davis was the perfect narrator for this story.  Her voice has a caring feeling like she is taking the family's, the author's and the story to heart and wants the reader to take it to heart as well.
Why did I give it 4 starts then?  Well I just think the story was too short.  The author has a great start and potential to make a larger novel with this short story.  I just need more!  This is a must read for historical fiction readers and lovers of good short stories.

Reviews by Other Bloggers


I recommend this book to young adult readers and older.


This book is number 15 in my Diversity on the Shelf Reading Challenge
This book is number 12 in my Audiobook Reading Challenge
This book is number 24 in Goodreads Reading Challenge

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