The Emperor Was Not Divine

For this years summer reading book I chose, When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka. The story is beautifully written and I think Nabokov would agree. Although, the story is told in three different perspectives and we never know the narrators names, Otsuka manages provide the utmost detail. The boy recalls, “It was 1942. Utah. Late summer. A city of tar-paper barracks behind a barbed-wire fence on a dusty alkaline plain high up in the desert. The wind was hot and dry and the rain rarely fell and wherever the boy looked he saw him: Daddy, Papa, Father, Oto-san” (49). Otsuka manages to captivate the reader by describing the horrible setting of a Japanese internment camp during a hot summer. Julie Otsuka also manages to capture the fear that many Japanese Americans were facing during World War II. The mother narrates, “Tomorrow she and the children would be leaving. She did not know where they were going or how long they would be gone or who would be living in their house while they were away. She knew only that tomorrow they had to go” (8-9). Once again, Otsuka gets the reader to feel empathy for the family and the hardships they will experience. Nabokov would, I believe, approve of Otsuka’s enchanting storytelling. As Nabokov states, “A major writer combines these three- storyteller, teacher, enchanter- but it is the enchanter in him that predominates and makes him a major writer” (32).

One thought on “The Emperor Was Not Divine

  1. Sarah K

    I read the same book and I thought that the quotes you pulled out really summarize the message of the book really well. I think that this is a very sad collection of stories but it is important for people to read because it gives very detailed insight.


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