2020: WHEN THE EMPEROR WAS DIVINE by Julie Otsuka

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka book cover paperback versionWHEN THE EMPEROR WAS DIVINE by Julie Otsuka

Waukesha Reads featured When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka as our 2020 NEA Big Read title! (Click HERE for the NEA’s Reader Resources.)

About the Book

A day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Julie Otsuka’s grandfather was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on suspicion of being a Japanese spy. Her mother, grandmother, and uncle were subsequently interned at a camp in Topaz, Utah. Otsuka draws on both research and personal experience, as well as her background as a visual artist, to craft this crystalline, semi-autobiographical debut novel, winner of the American Library Association’s Alex Award and the Asian American Literary Award. The internment experience in the novel is recounted through the varying perspectives of a mother, father, daughter, and son as they survive in the camp and then return home after two years to their old neighborhood that is neither familiar nor hospitable. This is “a gem of a book and one of the most vivid history lessons you’ll ever learn” (USA Today).

(Description from NEA Big Read website.)

Event Replays

Check out our YouTube channel to watch the replays of our 2020 events! Visit youtube.com/waukeshareads.

Haiku Submissions

Attendees of the Brown Bag Conversation on October 21, 2020, were asked to submit haikus inspired by the novel. A haiku is a type of Japanese poetry that has three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables respectively. Click here to read their poetry!

NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.