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When the Emperor Was Divine by [Otsuka, Julie]
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When the Emperor Was Divine Kindle Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 265 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • File Size: 671 KB
  • Print Length: 162 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (December 18, 2007)
  • Publication Date: December 18, 2007
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000XU8DKQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,459 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Louis N. Gruber VINE VOICE on January 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
When people--any people--cease to be seen as individuals, they become "them"--the faceless, nameless "enemy." In this exquisite short novel, a shameful episode of American history is re-examined--the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. It was a time when everyone of Japanese descent was somehow "them"--the enemy. And in becoming "the enemy" they lose much of what it means to be human.
The tiny family--mother, son, daughter--is devastated when their father is suddenly taken away in his robe and slippers, suspected of who knows what. A few months later they are forced to give up everything and move to a dusty prison camp somewhere in Utah.
After more than three years they return home, changed and traumatized. Eventually they are reunited with the father, but he too is changed, a broken shadow of himself.
The story is told in eloquent, simple, spare prose, in small but telling details, in the fragmented but powerful insights of the two children and their mother. It is never over-stated, never sentimental, yet it will bring you to tears.
The book concludes with a short but powerful epilogue, a fierce and powerful essay on what it means for anyone to be "them," to be "the enemy."
This is a painful book, but it is important for you to read it. I cannot recommend it too strongly. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.
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Format: Paperback
I had mixed feelings about this book before I read it. The title is NOT how most JA immigrants felt about the emperor of Japan. There was generally no love lost. Most, like my grandparents, left because of poverty, conscription, alienation, and to look for better oportunites in America, lika a lot of other immigrants. While reading the book, I give her kudos for her ability to describe events visually well. BUT...there are many problems with this book. There is this sterility in the manner in which she describes events.She can manage to paint a visually stunning picture with her words but there is no substance. Her characters seem as if she studied them from a textbook. A Nisei (second generation) young girl would NEVER talk in the manner in which she writes, to an elder!!! Its almost like she had Dakota Fanning in mind for this character. And the father character, an Issei (first generation)....Issei's used to swallow their pain. The Issei are known for their stoic strength and "gaman", quiet strength amidst adversity. I felt isulted by his mental confession in the book. I went to see the author at a local library and she did confess she NEVER interviewed ANY living internees. My god...they are dying off and she doesn't interview them? She said she wanted a more "pure" viewpoint. She said she did study books for her historical references. Indeed, there are some references in the book which I'm not quite sure if it is plagiarism, like in the description of the flies bothering her characters and then when they put up screens, it gets better. See Mine Okubo's book Citizen 13660, which Otsuka does reference. That scene is in there. I can see where the sterility feeling I got came from---if she only studied books and didn't get a feel for the emotional aspect that is buried in a lot of interness...Read more ›
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By A Customer on September 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The day I received this book I read the first few pages, canceled my plans for the night and allowed myself to be taken by this book without any effort. "When the Emperor Was Divine" follows a Japanese-American family in 1942 as they are taken from their California stucco house to an internment camp in Topaz, Utah. Having months earlier watched their father be sent away to a camp ''for dangerous enemy aliens'', the mother, daughter and son are left to speculate their own fate. Plunged in to a world where mess halls are to be called "dining halls" evacuees are to be called "residents" and the word freedom exists only outside the barbed-wire fence, each spends their time fantasizing over the reunion with their father. Although you never learn the names of any of the main characters you learn their grief and you will value the impact of the line "now he'll always be thirsty" and how it took my breath away. Even if up until that point you are not as convinced, the last three pages alone are enough to guarantee that you will be suggesting this book as soon as you close it.
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Format: Paperback
I wanted and expected to like this book, although I am leery of the superlatives you always find on book jackets: "incantatory prose" and "stunning debut"--that sort of thing. I find the praise undeserved. Otsuka seems to be trying to use prose in a spare, poetic style, which I see other readers do find moving. I am left cold, and it's only when I read the reviews by other Japanese Americans that I think I understand why. Otsuka has not done her homework. The prose is simple, but the images are not the least bit evocative for me. In an early scene when the mother goes out and has to kill the dog, I thought I was in for a good book. It turns out that was the only scene that stirred me--not because of its violence so much as for what goes unsaid, the emotional currents beneath the spare lines. It's an effect she tries for elsewhere, but I never feel anything for the characters throughout the rest of the book. Is that because they don't have names? I don't think so. It's because Otsuka doesn't take us below their surface. She is trying to be suggestive, evocative, and stark. But the lines have no resonance. It's difficult to render depth of emotion in people who are required to keep themselves contained due to their situation, but that's where skill comes in. Think of the great actors whose faces reveal everything their character is feeling vs. Hollywood celebrities who are in the movie because their face is pretty but not expressive. In the same way, some writers can suggest those depths with a well-chosen detail or image. Otsuka is not one of them.

Although I don't think that the nameless characters are an automatic drawback, I do wonder why in both of this author's novels, we are offered nameless characters.
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