Jeanne's Reviews > When the Emperor Was Divine

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
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's review
Aug 05, 2012

really liked it
Read in July, 2012

This book has been sitting on my shelf since 2009 when it was the "Vermont Reads" selection. I should have gotten to it earlier. Its a very spare book about Japanese American internment in 1942. What I liked about it was the quiet emotion: the book is told in a very factual way yet you can feel the devastation. First the father is taken away one night by the police. Soon, posters go about announcing the interment and so mother goes about her business in a straightforward way, packing up the things in their home and putting them away for safe keeping in a spare bedroom, burying her silver, putting down their ancient family dog, buying a large tub of Ponds Cold Cream. Off they go on a train to the internment camp where the children struggle to survive while Mom slowly sinks into depression. Unlike other books though, this story ends with them going back to their home in Berkeley,and getting their dad back (physically if not emotionally). While the adults seem to never quite recovery, the children do.
I'm still puzzling over how such a matter-of-factly written book could be so powerful, but it is. its good to be reminded of mistakes the US has made in the past, and of the resilience of the people who survived this and stayed to once again become productive,patriotic citizens Worth the read.

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