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When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
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Mar 25, 12

When the Emperor Was Divine

The Outcasts of this Country
The boy on the train misses his father. He dreams about him every second he can and smells his shoes so he can remember him. His sister by his side is living during terrible times and still has to go through adolescence. The mother with her family is very confused, upset, angry, and hurt, but holds it all in for the sake of her children. Her family’s being torn apart, their lives made miserable. They return home with no dignity, just more shame. But what did they do? They did nothing but be born. Some of their friends from their old life spoke, but most ignored them. Imagine being gone from figuratively the face of the earth for a stark four years, and finally coming back home to more hatred and isolation. The outcasts of this country have now come home.
Inspired by the novel When the Emperor Was Divine.

Japanese Americans were disregarded as citizens, as human beings after December 7, 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese Americans who lived on the west coast were all sent to interment camps. Many men were unjustly arrested, because if you were Japanese American, you were a criminal. During 1941-1945, if you were Japanese American a stranger probably lived in your home while you lived crowded and crushed with thousands of other families. You shared everything. Sometimes you never had private moments and sometimes you were the loneliest person in the world. Your old life was taken from you; your new life was bland. When you were utterly placed in your old life again, it was never the same. You’re never the same. You’ve just had your innocence stripped from you. Time stolen from you.

When the Emperor Was Divine is a novel about an anonymous family, a country, and its prejudice. The father is taken away by the FBI because he is “suspicious”. Months later, his wife, daughter, and son get one days notice that they are being uprooted from their home to detention camps. The children are confused, bored, and they long for their father in many ways. The mother slowly lets her guard down as time goes by. After four years of isolation and misery, the family returns home. Their home has been lived in by a stranger. The family must pretend to stay humble and not grab anyone’s attention so they stay off the radar. The father returns, and since he is different from the torture he has been through, the family is truly never the same. Everyone depended on the father being like he was four years ago so that everything seems normal, alright, like life again.

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