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When the Emperor Was Divine PDF
[PDF] When the Emperor Was Divine PDF (562 KB)
Author: Julie Otsuka
No. Of Pages: 104
PDF Size: 562 KB
Language: English
Category: eBooks & Novels
Source: Drive Files
When the Emperor Was Divine PDF

When the Emperor Was Divine PDF

Julie Otsuka’s powerful first book depicts Japanese internment camps in a way we’ve never seen before. Otsuka employs a single family to portray the deracination “both physical and emotional” of a generation of Japanese Americans with crystalline intensity and clarity.

She has created a small tour de force, a novel of unrelenting economy and suppressed emotion, in five chapters, each flawlessly executed from a different point of view “the mother receiving the order to evacuate; the daughter on the long train ride to the camp; the son in the desert encampment; the family’s return to their home; and the bitter release of the father after more than four years in captivity”

When the Emperor Was Divine is a heartbreaking picture of a family in wartime and an indisputably poignant lesson for our times, sparse, personal, and arrestingly subdued. It announces the debut of a very talented new author.

When the Emperor Was Divine Plot

From spring 1942 through spring 1946, the narrative takes place. The five chapters are given from the perspectives of several family members: first, the woman/mother, then the girl/daughter, then the boy/son, then the combined perspectives of the two children, and lastly, the man/father. The narrative opens in Berkeley, California, in the house of a long-term resident Japanese-American family. The father had been detained by the FBI four months before, and the mother, their son, and their daughter had been receiving letters from him from a camp in Texas.

When the mother notices posters in the neighbourhood advising her to pack her children and a few things for vacation, she returns home to begin packing. The mother chats with a business owner the day before they depart and purchases a few items. She hides her treasures in the basement and then eats a chicken. She delivers the cat to the neighbours and uses a shovel to murder the family dog. When the kids get home from school, the mother cooks a chicken meal and lets her daughter’s pet macaw fly out the window, pretending that her husband is in the house with them. She has no clue where any of them will end up in the future.

After four months at the Tanforan horse track in San Francisco, the mother, son, and daughter board a train to Utah. They become sick from the train’s shaking, so they have to drop their window shades at night and while passing through cities. As she walks through the train and observes wild mustangs out her window, the daughter recounts the other passengers. She remembers a vacation to Yosemite with her family and tosses a deck of cards out the window. She reads a few of her father’s postcards. As a brick goes through a train window, she awakens up to the sound of shattered glass. The train arrives in Utah late at night, and passengers disembark in Delta. They take the bus to Topaz, a bleak collection of tar-paper barracks. It’s dusty, hot, and brilliant to the point of blindness. There are no trees or other sources of shade.

The son goes on to recount the tiresome details of their existence in the internment camp, including their little, shared room, the armed guards, the radio they brought from home, and the other inhabitants, whom they can readily hear through the thin walls at all hours of the day and night. They have no running water, must queue for their few meals, and use common bathrooms that are far away. The son dreams of water and his father, who still writes to them on a weekly basis, here in the desert. From home, the son receives messages and presents from a neighbour girl.

School is attended by the pupils. The memories of his father being taken away and his mother cleansing the home of anything Japanese haunt the boy. He has a pet turtle that dies, and he has a tulip bulb that blossoms in March that he planted in a can. The camp inmates are handed enormous wool army surplus jackets in the winter because of the bitter cold and snow. The mother becomes despondent, seldom leaves her room, and refuses to eat. The boy’s sister grows more estranged and perplexed. The guards murder a guy by shooting him. They don’t know why the father stopped writing. When the sweltering heat of summer arrives, time appears to stand still, and the son attempts to come up with novel methods to pass the time. He fantasises about his father reappearing, healthy, robust, and unaltered.

The mother, son, and daughter reunite after three years and five months apart. Their mother’s rosebush is gone, and their home in Berkeley has been plundered, empty, ruined, and defiled, yet they enjoy the fragrance of the beach, the shade of their trees, and the water that streams from the tap. The mother spends the $25 she has been given on shoes, undergarments, and a new mattress. They sleep downstairs in the same arrangement as they did in their cramped Utah room, until one night when someone throws a bottle through the window.

They are teased and made to feel embarrassed of their Japanese heritage at school and in their community. When the mother’s savings run out, she goes to work cleaning homes and bringing in laundry. She gradually restores the home and replaces the furniture, including beds for each of them. They get word in December that their father will be returning. When they meet him at the railway station, he is almost unrecognisable: emaciated, mute, elderly, wounded, and discouraged. He never goes back to work and instead spends his days at home, sleeping badly, puttingtering about, and reading, while his wife works outside the house. He’s a shattered individual. The youngsters unsuccessfully scour the area for their mother’s rosebush in the spring.

As the narrative comes to a close, the father makes a meandering confession—none of which is true—in which he confesses to a series of bizarre crimes and adopts the character of every Japanese person in their neighborhood. He asks for punishment and expresses regret. He begs for compassion and release.

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