When the Emperor was Divine


Sparse… this word best describes When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka.  The tale of one Japanese- American family’s evacuation and relocation during World War II from California to the Utah desert.  A nice way of saying concentration camp. Told from the perspective of various characters.  It describes the day the mother learned about the relocation from a sign hanging at the post office, a detailed account of the journey by train to the concentration camp, and distressing details of the 3 years the family is housed in the concentration camp.

Sparse – the housing conditions of this once middle class family.

Sparse – the desert compared to their home in a verdant area of California.

Sparse – the letters between family members censored with words cut out or blacked out.

Sparse – the home and life they return to upon release.

Sparse – my understanding of this part of US History before reading this book.  It wasn’t until my late twenties, I even knew this event occurred.

I understand the wretchedness of the Japanese Internment from this 144 page fiction book  better than if I read a 1000 page, illustrated, non-fiction tome.  Great fiction often increases one’s empathy.