Book Reviews,  FICTION,  History,  Immigration,  World War II

When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka *** (of 4)

A short introduction to the dehumanizing, racist relocation of Japanese Americans to internment camps at the outset of World War II.  We follow a single, nameless family from a small bungalow in Berkeley, after the father is hauled off for questioning by the FBI.  It is the day after Pearl Harbor.  Weeks later Mom and the two children are moved to a church, the Tanforan horse racing track, and finally a desert internment camp in Nevada.  Dislocation, despair, depression, disbelief, and quiet obedience pervade these Japanese stripped of their rights and dignity.  Dad is returned to his family four years later a broken man.  No explanation or reparations are offered by the U.S. government.  When the Emperor was Divine reads more like a young adult book than a great novel, but for those who don’t know much about the Japanese internment camps, this is a good place to begin.