Whenthe Emperor Was Divine
Julie Otsuka authored the book “.”Julie was born in the year 1962 and has parents who are of Japanesedescent. She was brilliant in school and went to the east to joincollege. She graduated in 1984 with a degree in Bachelor of Arts fromYale University. Julie studied painting at her 20s but decided toengage in writing as the other art. She joined a writing workshop andattained An MFA from Columbia University in the year 1999. Her book“” has sections containing part of herMFA thesis. Julie Otsuka’s debut novel has successfullyportrayed the plight of individuals from a different ethnicbackground by narrating the events in a Japanese internment camp.
Julie’s “” is a book thatsignificantly brings out her family history. The description of thefive chapters is a focus on the experiences had by the family at thetime of World War II. The book draws from Julie’s personal historywith reference to her Japanese roots (Nguyen 512). She combines bothresearch and personal experience in writing the book. The firstchapter is a focus on the mother’s perspective as the whole familyis forced to evacuate their home. The second Chapter is narrated fromthe viewpoint of the 11-year-old daughter. It is a reflection of theevents the family encountered while on a train headed to TopazRelocation Center. The third chapter illustrates the eight-year old`snarration of the period when they were at Topaz. The chapter is afocus on the developmental process of the children as they agetowards teenhood. The girl grows into being a teenager as the boy isseen losing the childishness and becoming more mature. The fourthchapter is a focus on the struggles faced by the family afterreturning home. It is a period that describes the moment they aretrying to regain both financial and social stability. Finally, thefifth chapter is a focus on the activities of the father who had beenarrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The author’s audience can be perceived as all those individuals whohave suffered at the hands of the government because of their ethnicdifferences. The author could be targeting the outsiders who oftenare perceived as enemies of a given country if something went wrong.For example, in cases where there a terrorist act is committed, mostof the law enforcement agencies are often quick to blame individualsof diverse ethnic origin. The issue has particularly been prevalentfor example in the United States as Muslims have been portrayed asthe enemy in the event of a terror attack. Because of the same, someof the families have had to suffer as the law enforcement agenciessubject them to harassment in the American society (Abreu 433). Somehave been arrested and sent to different unknown locations away fromtheir families. The experience has been challenging for most sincethey have to part with the family and in extreme cases, they areforced to live their residence and start life in a foreign country.The author aims to bring out the plight of the people who have has asimilar experience. Mainly, there is the aspect of one having tograpple with the suspicions of the government and the results thatfollow after. In the novel, Julie aims to use the flow of the storyto explain the aspect of challenges faced by families when thegovernment treats them as potential enemies because of their ethnicdiversity. Overall, there is an interplay of events all aimed ataddressing an audience that has had a similar challenge.
Purpose of the Author
The author sought to reach out to the individuals who have had asimilar experience. Julie admits that all those are associated withthe enemy have been considered as being dangerous-hence the needreaction they face from the government. Despite it being a work offiction, there are significant aspects that tend to portray theactual happenings in a real world society. Indeed, some people havepreviously been arrested by the government and sent away to unknowncamps. The purpose of the author was to explain such sentiments as away of reminding the society of the fact that history will alwaysrepeat itself. It is an issue that affects governments across theglobe. Julie’s “” is a work offiction that aims at conveying the message on the same issue.
Julie was successful when it came to passage of the information tothe intended audience. For example, those who have had theopportunity to read the book acknowledge its relationship with the9/11 attacks. The book is depicted as having been able to elicitemotions especially because of the effect it had on the peopleregarding the occurrence of events at the time. Particularly, thereis the aspect of Muslim and Japanese Americans being victims when itcomes to harassment by the police or even the society (Wasserman882). They are denied equal opportunities to social amenities.
“In early autumn farm recruiters arrived to sign up new workers,and the War Relocation Authority allowed many of the young men andwomen to go out and help harvest the crops…They said they’d beenshot at. Spat on. Refused entrance to the local diner. The movietheater. The dry goods store. They said the signs in the windows werethe same wherever they went: NO JAPS ALLOWED. Life was easier, theysaid, on this side of the fence”. (Otsuka 66)
Most have been subjected to situations where they cannot interactwith the immediate family members.
The next issue would be about the impact of the unfair treatment ofindividuals from a different ethnic background. Those being treatedunfairly feel the adverse effect and tend to shy away from being openabout their culture. For example, in the book, the author states
“Whenever the boy walked past the shadow of a guard tower hepulled his cap down low over his head and tried not to say the word.But sometimes it slipped out anyway, Hirohito, Hirohito,Hirohito. He said it quietly. Quickly. He whispered it.” (Otsuka 52)
The decision to pull down the cap is a reflection of the fact thatthose affected tend to live in fear and feel less proud regardingtheir culture. It is an indication that the effects of the unfairtreatment especially from the government agencies subject individualsto fear. The family members, specifically children, have to deal withthe problem if their parents are involved and everyone desires to getback home where there is no racial prejudice (Dowling 310). It is anissue that is shared by all those hailing from a different ethnicbackground and has to deal with the unfair treatment. The statementis echoed by the sentiments in the chapter
“She’d been in America for almost twenty years now. But shedid not want to cause any trouble—“The nail that sticks up getshammered down”—or be labeled disloyal. She did not want to besent back to Japan. “There’s no future for us there. We’rehere. Your father’s here. The most important thing is that we staytogether.”…(Otsuka 78)
Despite the unfair treatment from the agencies, people continue tolive in harmony with each other regardless of the different ethnicbackground. Notably, there has been the practice of seeing each otheras a brother or sister. Julie sought to reiterate the message, andthis was confirmed in her book. In the book she states
“One evening as the boy’s mother was hauling a bucket of waterfrom the washroom she ran into her former housekeeper, Mrs. Ueno.“When she saw me she grabbed the bucket right out of my hands andinsisted upon carrying it home for me…I tried to tell her that sheno longer worked for me. ‘Mrs. Ueno,’ I said, ‘here we’re allequal,’ but of course she wouldn’t listen. When we got back tothe barracks, she set the bucket down by the front door, and then shebowed and hurried off into the darkness. I didn’t even get a chanceto thank her.”(Otsuka 58)
Regardless of the differences, the focus has always been on ensuringthat there is unity among the different ethnic groups. It is out ofsuch thoughts that acts of care and concern are shared by variousgroups as depicted in the story. It is a reaffirmation of the factthat unity remains to be an issue of significance regardless of theethnic divides that exist (Wald 435).
Indeed, the book has been efficient in explaining the status quo ofdifferent nations and how they conduct themselves in times of acrisis such as terror attack. The government agencies are often quickin blaming outsiders to be the cause of the problem. It is an issuethat needs to change. The book has been instrumental in relaying themessage not only to the government agencies but the people byreminding them of the need to uphold unity at all times regardless oftheir ethnic backgrounds. It is a book that can be recommendedbecause of the message that it aims at relaying. There is much to bebenefitted from because it focuses on fostering unity. Further, itseeks at sharing the concerns of aggrieved family members. Thereading of the book will help share the concerns of those affectedand probably help one in dealing with the problem.
Conclusion “” has beeninstrumental in explaining the problems faced by individuals hailingfrom a different ethnic background. The sequence of events told fromdifferent characters clearly depicts the problem. It is a book worthreading for the lessons that it provides not only for ordinarycitizens but the government agencies as well. The lessons provided inthe book are instrumental in building cohesion among those of adifferent background.
Abreu, Christina D. "Maha Marouan and Merinda Simmons (eds.),Race and Displacement: Nation, Migration, and Identity in theTwenty-First Century (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2013,$44.95). Pp. 248. isbn 978 0 8173 1801 7." Journal ofAmerican Studies 49.02 (2015): 433-434.
Dowling, Sarah. "“How Lucky I Was to Be Free and Safe atHome”: Reading Humor in Miné Okubo’s Citizen 13660." Signs39.2 (2014): 299-322.
Nguyen, Catherine H. "The children of 1965: on writing, and notwriting, as an Asian American." Ethnic and Racial Studies38.3 (2015): 512-513.
Otsuka, Julie. When the emperor was divine. MS thesis.Columbia University, 1999.
Wald, Alan. "Erin Royston Battat, Ain`t Got No Home: America`sGreat Migrations and the Making of an Interracial Left (Chapel Hill:University of North Carolina Press, 2014, $32.95). Pp. 252+ 16 illus.isbn 978 1 4696 1402 1." Journal of American Studies49.02 (2015): 434-435.
Wasserman, Sarah L. "Amnesia and Redress in ContemporaryAmerican Fiction by Marni Gauthier (review)." MFS ModernFiction Studies 59.4 (2013): 880-883.