When The Emperor Was Divine

I’m happy to announce I have a second contribution to the #JapaneseLitChallenge13

What a pleasant surprise, this short book, written in 2002.

At 144 pages, it had literary quality while feeling fresh, Japanese at the core, and timeless.

Over the years, in literature, I’ve read books about this time in the States, where the Japanese living here, -specially in California-, were arrested, sent to camps and prisons, and the treatment they received when/if they came back to what had been their homes.

The experience of survival in times of war, is similar to that I’ve read in other books, but only in the way of dealing with shortages, the hardships of poverty, and that eternal wait with most of the men gone to fight. That’s where the comparison stops. The emotional and mental torture of being classified as the enemy, being stripped of a life, an identity, that’s something only some people, as the Japanese family in this book, experienced. It’s an added layer to the difficulty and horrors of being caught in times of war.

I can only watch from the outside, from my comfort zone. I watch and learn.

Books like this remind us of the pain that humanity has gone through in the flesh and soul of certain groups and communities. This is a painful story which is told in a beautiful way.

The pictures show my copy of the book, along with the tall and pretty card that Bellezza sent me some time ago. I should have taken a picture of the back,-it’s the back of the girl in her kimono-. They kind of match, isn’t that cute?

25 thoughts on “When The Emperor Was Divine

  1. tx for your response on my blog… i’ve read some George MacDonald, but not that one; some of his books are great, but so far i can’t say the same about Henry James… i think i’m biased… but i intend on devoting some energy to him some time… just not now (lol)

  2. First of all, nice hearing from you.
    I’m glad that my recommendation didn’t disappoint you. I’m glad for short but well written books, specially books like this that introduce some of us to events we know just by being mentioned. It put a human face to some part of history we need to remember.

  3. Based on your review I immediately put a hold on the book at my library and just finished it last night. It was such a short book that I think I read it in 3 days! What a story! It was beautiful and depressing and VERY thought provoking. It has made me interested in exploring the subject even more. While I knew this happened I hadn’t a full picture of the impact until I read the book. Thanks for sharing your take on it!

  4. Hmmmm. It’s much shorter, not even 200 pages. It’s not a main course like Makioka. It’s more a good appetizer.

  5. I wish I had time for this challenge, but alas. I’m putting this one on my “If I Don’t Read It Soon, I’ll Read It In Heaven” list! LOL!

  6. Pingback: Ongoing Reading Log | Silvia Cachia

  7. I only became aware of the Japanese-American internment camps a few years ago – humans really do do awful things to each other, don’t we? Sounds like an interesting book… 🙂

  8. I was able to check out “When the Emperor Was Divine” at the library today. Now, to find the time to read it before it has to go back to the library……

  9. That’s the camp this family went to I guess, unless there were more than one camp, theirs was in Utah as well.

  10. That card is adorable! I’m adding this book to my TBR list. You might be interested in reading Journey to Topaz by Yoshiko Uchida. It’s a really good YA book about a Japanese family who is sent to Topaz (a prison camp in Utah) after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

  11. It’s touching, and written with elegance, restraint, and a fitting economy of words and lack of emotional outbursts, which makes the struggle of the characters more punctuated and real.

  12. I loved this book! I read it long ago, so my recollections are only vague, but I remember it as so touching and real to a woman (me) who had never experienced anything so ghastly. And yet, in its own way, it holds a certain beauty as you implied.

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