On Saturday I ran across an article in More magazine listing many summer reads. I love lists like this because of course I can add a few more titles to my already ridiculous TBR pile. Somewhere in the list a book by Julie Otsuka came up. The name sounded familiar. And then it went on further to state that it was a follow-up to her novel When The Emperor Was Divine. The title sounded familiar, too. Hmmmmm. Did I read this book? I hate when I can't remember. I did a little research on Amazon and finally decided that I had not read it, even though it sounded like a book I would enjoy. I also had a sneaking suspicion that I had bought this book when it came out. And lo and behold, when I went downstairs this slim volume was sitting right on my bookshelf staring at me. Despite the huge TBR stack of library books waiting for me upstairs, I plucked this one from the spot its been resting since 2002 (for shame!) and started reading.
When the Emperor Was Divine tells the story of a family uprooted during World War II. Japanese Americans, each family member narrates a chapter of what life was like during this time. The mother prepares the family to leave their home and report as they must to a location that will eventually send them to an internment camp. Her children - a boy and girl- narrate what life is like in the camp. Their father was sent away first and it is several years before they are reunited and return home.
Ostuka's writing is spare and unemotional, yet her writing style certainly shows the way in which a family is traumatized by the government's actions. Upon coming home life does not immediately return to normal for this family who must still battle racism and anti-Japanese feelings.
I raced through this book in an afternoon. It is quick read, but also one that is beautifully written. While When the Emperor Was Divine took me far too long to get to, I am putting Ostuka' s new book (to be released in August), Buddha in the Attic on my list already.