Seattle Reads 2005 Seattle Reads 2005

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

Spring 2005

A Program of the Seattle Public Library


Densho and the Washington Center for the Book at The Seattle Public Library invites everyone to take part in "Seattle Reads," a project designed to broaden and deepen an appreciation of literature through reading and discussion.

When the Emperor Was Divine is the story of an unnamed Japanese American family's internment during World War II. From Library Journal: "The novel's themes of freedom and banishment are especially important as we see civil liberties threatened during the current war on terrorism. Otsuka's clear, elegant prose makes these themes accessible to a range of reading levels from young adult on."

Shifting narrative points of view with each chapter, from the mother to the 11-year-old girl, to the 8-year-old boy, Otsuka portrays the devastation, dehumanization, and hardships of the camp experience. The fourth chapter looks back on the family's return to their ransacked home. In a heartbreaking reunion, the father returns home, and in the final chapter, titled "Confession," expresses his anger against those who imprisoned him.

For more information, see the official website

Seattle Channel's Eric Liu Hosts Reading Group

Seattle Reads Panel

On March 22, 2005, writer and Seattle Channel host Eric Liu moderated a "celebrity" reading group of When the Emperor Was Divine at the new Seattle Central Library. Panelists Margaret Harada, Frank Kitamoto, Hubert Locke, Kip Tokuda and Shigeko Uno discussed Otsuka's book and shared their personal stories and perspectives on the incarceration experience.

View the Seattle Channel video [RM]
Read the transcript (PDF format) [ pdf ]


A generous grant from The Wallace Foundation supported the first three years of "Seattle Reads." Thanks to private gifts to The Seattle Public Library Foundation and a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, "Seattle Reads" is now an annual program series of the Washington Center for the Book at The Seattle Public Library.

SPL Washington Center for the Book

The 2005 series is part of "Reading Across the Map," a multi-year project to foster reading and discussion of works by authors of diverse cultures and ethnicities, made possible by The Wallace Foundation, with additional support from KUOW 94.9 Northwest Public Radio and Anchor Books.


For more information about Seattle Reads, see the Seattle Public Library's Seattle Reads program website. For specific information on an event, please contact the official sponsor -- Densho has only the general schedule and venue information that is listed in the entries above. To submit Seattle Reads events for the calendar, contact Densho at 206-320-0095 or [email protected].

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