“When the Emperor was Divine” by Julie Otsuka – A book review

After reading Julie Otsuka’s second novel “The Buddha in the Attic”, I was drawn to her first novel “When the Emperor was Divine”.

In her second book, Julie Otsuka wrote about Japanese Americans emigrating from their homeland to America in 1900s before Japan bombed Pearl Harbour. She traced their lives up to the disappearance of Japanese during the war. To read about the disappearance of Japanese Americans, her first novel “When the Emperor was Divine” shed lights of that period of three years from 1942.

“When the Emperor was Divine” was based on a true story covering a Japanese family living in US narrating how they were treated by the Americans after Japan bombed Pearl Harbour. The Japanese people were brought to a camp set up in Utah, a desert.

War was ugly. Innocent people suffered just because they were Japanese. They were not even involved in the war front. It was a depressive read for me and it affected my mood in the day. Despite this, I was determined to complete the book to read the ending of the persecution of these Japanese Americans and to know how the family came out from this experience.

Julie Otsuka wrote simply and clearly. I can feel the pain and fear abundantly displayed throughout the book. At the end of it, the family had to come to term with the past and lived on.

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