BiographicalSketch of the Author
Julie Otsuka, a Japanese-American author, is credited for immensecontribution to literature by authoring various novels. She is knownfor the work done on historical fiction that relates to the JapaneseAmericans. The focus of her work is to highlight the plight of theJapanese Americans. The fact that her parents lived through theJapanese Internment period gives her unique ability to highlightcontemporary issues as relates to the events encountered by theJapanese Americans. Her book, “When the Emperor was Divine” isthe first fiction novel she wrote focusing on the Japanese Internmentcamps. Julie Otsuka graduated from Yale University in 1984 with aBachelor’s degree in Arts. Initially, she studied painting butresorted to writing as the other artwork that she would latercapitalize on. She then joined Columbia University where she attainedan MFA. Since then, she has focused on writing and is accredited forthe launch of several novels. “When the Emperor Was Divine” isa successful manifestation of the challenges faced by the JapaneseAmericans because of their ethnic diversity.
The book is a reflection of events that unfold at the IntermittentJapanese camp. The focus of the discussion in the novel is anillustration of how events unfold from chapter one through chapterfive. Each chapter is explained from every member’s perspectiveabout the experiences faced at the time. The book evaluates thepersonal history of Otsuka about her country of origin. The authordraws from the personal experiences of the mother, their daughter,the boy, challenges faced by the family at the intermittent camp andthe events leading to the arrest of their father by the FBI. Theevents are illustrated sequentially from chapter one to chapter five.
The author seeks to pass a message to the society as a whole as sheaims at illustrating the negative vices that happen today. The bookthat describes the events encountered by a family living throughAmerica’s darkest moment in history focuses on pointing out theadversities such as racism faced by all those confined to theintermittent camps. It is a detailed expression of widespread eventsof racism, harassment, and mistreatment that was prevalent at thetime (Manzella 143). The book can be portrayed as focusing on thesociety to remind them of what happened during the period.Specifically, the focus is on illustrating the events that occurredin the intermittent camp for three and half years. The author’saudience is people in the society who have consistently felt thewrath of the harsh treatment by the government. The use of theJapanese intermittent camps is a reflection of the challenges facedby such individuals (Marouan). Further, the audience can also be theindividuals who have previously been exiled for political reasons. Inthe book, there is the aspect of the father being arrested by the FBIand sent away from his family. Otsuka seeks to inform the society ofsuch vices on the society and the impact that it had on the wellnessof the society. Drawing to a real world situation, the author can beportrayed as relaying a message in response to the widespreadharassment of Muslims especially in the United States because theyare associated with a terrorist. Some of them have been arrested andsent to different containment areas away from their families.
The Purpose of the Author
The purpose of the author is to send a message to the world as awhole to remind government systems across the globe to exercisesobriety in dealing with individuals of different ethnic backgrounds.The author acknowledges the fact that there have been widespreadcases of harassment especially by governments across the globe. Forexample, with the increase in cases of radical Islamism, governmentshave been found targeting Muslims and radical religions andsubjecting them to harassment. The purpose of the author was to useher personal experience as a child, and that of her parents combinedwith research to illustrate the extent to which such adverse eventshave been happening. For example, the with the bombing of the PearlHarbor, the Japanese Americans have suffered as most of them havebeen victimized because of their ethnic diversity (Otsuka). Becauseof the same, families have had to suffer as some of their memberswere sent away. The increase in such events negates the need to havesomeone speak against such vices. It is out of such sentiments thatJulie Otsuka in her novel, “When the Emperor was Divine” aims atcondemning such acts while at asking for those involved not to engagein such victimizations because of race and ethnic diversity.
Success of the Author
Indeed, the author has been successful in drawing to the attention ofthe public the issue of victimization. Her book, released shortlyafter the 9/11 attacks sought to remind the people and the society asa whole of what was happening. The government had launched acrackdown on a particular ethnic group. Specifically, Muslims weretargeted at the time and faced harassment by the government. Theauthor was successful in pointing out the vice in the society whilecalling for the abandonment of such unfair treatment by thegovernment.
Organization, Bias and Effectiveness of the Author
The author has successfully organized the book such that the flow isin a logical manner. For example, the novel is narrated from thefamily perspectives with each member having a story to tell. Thechapters are organized such that each family member has something tosay. The events unfold sequentially from Chapter One all through toChapter Five. The approach is an illustration of the logicalorganization of the book to achieve the desired objective.
Application to Culture
The book is relevant to culture considering the approach and themanner in which the entire story has been narrated. Ordinarily, in aculture composed of different people, the possibility ofvictimization is always high. The individuals hailing from adifferent cultural background have suffered especially since they arelabeled as outsiders. It is a common occurrence especially if onedoes not share a common background. The aspect is particularly commonbecause of diversity in the practice of religion.
Summary of Chapter Two, Three and Four
Chapter two explains the perspective of the girl as they travel in atrain. The movement of the train makes the girl sick probably becauseof motion sickness. The Chapter is a focus on the movement and thefinal refinement in a Japanese intermittent camp. On reaching thedestination, they are first confined to a horse stable.
“She was ten years old and she knew what she liked. Boys andblack licorice and Dorothy Lamour. Her favorite song on the radio was“Don’t Fence Me in.” (Otsuka, Chapter 3)
What stands out is the fact that there is the aspect of assimilationas the girl does not understand the Japanese language despite herroots. The American identity in her is prevalent. However, racism isevident since through the journey the Japanese Americans are seenbeing guarded as if they are enemies on their way to the intermittentcamp (Park 155).
Chapter three is told from the boy’s perspective. It is thebeginning of the illustration of events in the camp. The boy tries tocall out for his father whom he thinks may be part of the maleprisoners. It is a description of events that occur at the camp whichinclude a normal routine of waiting for mails, meals as they wait forthe days to progress. The boy feels sad that his family could be thecamp because of him. However, what stands out is the typical Japanesenature in all of them.
“For it was true, they all looked alike. Black hair. Slantedeyes. High cheekbones. Thick glasses. Thin lips. Bad teeth.Unknowable. Inscrutable”.(Otsuka, Chapter 3)
The chapter illustrates the theme of injustice considering the mannerin which they are treated at the camp.
Finally, chapter four is a focus of the perception of both the boyand the girl. It is a description of the moment when the childrenreturn home after the period of war (Ahlin 101). At the end, thereunion is seen as being emotional and serves as the opportunity forthe family to start all over again.
“And when our mother pushed us gently, but firmly, from behind,and whispered, Go to him, all we could do was staredown at our shoes, unable to move. Because the man who stood therebefore us was not our father. He was somebody else, a stranger whohad been sent back in our father’s place. That’s not him,we said to our mother, That’s not him, but our motherno longer seemed to hear us…He got down on his knees and he took usinto his arms and over and over again, he uttered our names, butstill we could not be sure it was him”.(Otsuka, Chapter 4)
It is a chapter that brings out the mistreatment by the governmentfor their disloyal nature being Japanese Americans.
The selection of the three chapters is emanates from the fact thatthey depict the sequence of events from the time they were travelingin a train to when they return home. The chapters explain the eventsthat occurred during the period. It helps in supporting theassertions of the author as regards to the harassment of individualsof a different ethnic background.
Overall, the events displayed in the book confirm the harassment thatwas faced by the Japanese Americans. The period of stay at theintermittent camp is a reflection of the suffering that the JapaneseAmericans faced. The book is successful in illustrating that indeed,victimization on the grounds of race and ethnic diversity is a commonissue in the society that needs to be addressed.
Ahlin, Lena. ""All we wanted to do, now that we were back in the world, was forget":on remembrance and forgetting in Julie Otsuka`s novels."American Studies in Scandinavia 47.2 (2015): 81-101.
Manzella, AbigailGH. "disorientation in Julie otsuka’s When the Emperor WasDivine." Race and Displacement: Nation, Migration, andIdentity in the Twenty-First Century (2013): 143.
Marouan, Maha, andMerinda Simmons, eds. Race and Displacement: Nation, Migration,and Identity in the Twenty-first Century. University of AlabamaPress, 2013.
Otsuka, Julie. When the emperor was divine. MS thesis.Columbia University, 1999.
Otsuka, Julie."Extended meaning by symbolism." (2013).
Park, Josephine."Alien Enemies in Julie Otsuka`s When the Emperor Was Divine."MFS Modern Fiction Studies 59.1 (2013): 135-155.