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... read more
On a sunny day in Berkeley, California, in 1942, a woman sees a sign in a post office window, returns to her house, 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... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
On a sunny day in Berkeley, California, in 1942, a woman sees a sign in a post office window, returns to her house, 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 barraks and the baarber-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.
“If we did something wrong we made sure to say excuse me (excuse me for looking at you, excuse me for sitting here, excuse me for coming back). If we did something terribly wrong, we immediately said we were sorry (I’m sorry I touched your arm, I didn’t mean to, it was an accident, I didn’t see it resting there so quietly, so beautifully, so perfectly, so irresistibly, on the edge of the desk, I lost my balance and brushed against it by mistake, I was standing too close, I wasn’t watching where I was going, somebody pushed me from behind, I never wanted to touch you, I have always wanted to touch you, I will never touch you again, I promise, I swear...).”
“I was afraid I might accidentally remember who I was and . . . offend myself.”Highlighted by 30 Kindle customers
We would listen to their music. We would dress just like they did. We would change our names to sound more like theirs. And if our mother called out to us on the street by our real names we would turn away and pretend not to know her. We would never be mistaken for the enemy again!Highlighted by 28 Kindle customers
“From now on,” she said, “we’re counting on our fingers.”Highlighted by 21 Kindle customers
She wrote down her name across the six of clubs and slipped the card out the window.Highlighted by 20 Kindle customers
But we never stopped believing that somewhere out there, in some stranger’s backyard, our mother’s rosebush was blossoming madly, wildly, pressing one perfect red flower after another out into the late afternoon light.Highlighted by 18 Kindle customers
White Dog turned his head to the side and closed his eyes. His paws went limp. The woman picked up the large shovel that was leaning against the trunk of the tree. She lifted it high in the air with both hands and brought the blade down swiftly on his head. White Dog’s body shuddered twice and his hind legs kicked out into the air, as though he were trying to run. Then he grew still. A trickle of blood seeped out from the corner of his mouth. She untied him from the tree and let out a deep breath. The shovel had been the right choice. Better, she thought, than a hammer.Highlighted by 17 Kindle customers
THE RULES about the fence were simple: You could not go over it, you could not go under it, you could not go around it, you could not go through it.Highlighted by 16 Kindle customers
The girl had always lived in California—first in Berkeley, in a white stucco house on a wide street not far from the sea, and then, for the last four and a half months, in the assembly center at the Tanforan racetrack south of San Francisco—but now she was going to Utah to live in the desert.Highlighted by 13 Kindle customers
She had not seen her husband since his arrest last December. First he had been sent to Fort Missoula, Montana, on a train and then he had been transferred to Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Every few days he was allowed to write her a letter. Usually he told her about the weather. The weather at Fort Sam Houston was fine. On the back of every envelope was stamped “Censored, War Department,” or “Detained Alien Enemy Mail.”Highlighted by 12 Kindle customers
We heard a click and then the door swung open and she took off her hat and stepped into the foyer and after three years and five months we were suddenly, finally, home.Highlighted by 10 Kindle customers
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