The Reddie Read Program

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When the Emperor was Divine, Fall 2010

When the Emperor was Divine by Julie OtsukoA precise, understated gem of a first novel, Julie Otsuka's When the Emperor Was Divine tells one Japanese American family's story of internment in a Utah enemy alien camp during World War II. We never learn the names of the young boy and girl who were forced to leave their Berkeley home in 1942 and spend over three years in a dusty, barren desert camp with their mother. Occasional, heavily censored letters arrive from their father, who had been taken from their house in his slippers by the FBI one night and was being held in New Mexico, his fate uncertain. But even after the war, when they have been reunited and are putting their stripped, vandalized house back together, the family can never regain its pre-war happiness. Broken by circumstance and prejudice, they will continue to pay, in large and small ways, for the shape of their eyes. When the Emperor Was Divine is written in deceptively tranquil prose, a distillation of injustice, anger, and poetry; a notable debut. --Regina Marler (

Campus Activities

  • September 15, 2010:
    Beyond Barbed Wire Movie
    7:00 p.m. Garrison Center Lecture Hall
  • September 22, 2010:
    Julie Otsuka
    "An Evening with Julie Otsuka"
    7:00 p.m. Arkansas Hall Auditorium
  • October 6, 2010:
    Children of the Camps Movie
    International Film Night
    7:30 p.m. Garrison Center Lecture Hall

Related Links

Japanese Relocation Links