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Download When the Emperor Was Divine Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample When the Emperor Was Divine, by Julie Otsuka Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (5,960 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Julie Otsuka Narrator: Elaina Erika Davis Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Julie Otsuka’s commanding debut novel paints a portrait of the Japanese internment camps unlike any we have ever seen. With crystalline intensity and precision, Otsuka uses a single family to evoke the deracination—both physical and emotional—of a generation of Japanese Americans. In five chapters, each flawlessly executed from a different point of view—the mother receiving the order to evacuate; the daughter on the long train ride to the camp; the son in the desert encampment; the family’s return to their home; and the bitter release of the father after more than four years in captivity—she has created a small tour de force, a novel of unrelenting economy and suppressed emotion. Spare, intimate, arrestingly understated, When the Emperor Was Divine is a haunting evocation of a family in wartime and an unmistakably resonant lesson for our times. It heralds the arrival of a singularly gifted new novelist.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Exceptional…Otsuka skillfully dramatizes a world suddenly foreign…[Her] incantatory, unsentimental prose is the book’s greatest strength.”

    New Yorker

  • “Spare, incisive…The mood of the novel tensely reflects the protagonists’ emotional state: calm surfaces above, turmoil just beneath.”

    Boston Globe

  • “A timely examination of mass hysteria in troubled times…Otsuka combines interesting facts and tragic emotions with a steady, pragmatic hand.”


  • “An exquisite debut…Potent, spare, crystalline.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • “Prose so cool and precise that it’s impossible not to believe what [Otsuka] tells us or to see clearly what she wants us to see…A gem of a book and one of the most vivid history lessons you’ll ever learn.”

    USA Today

  • “At once delicately poetic and unstintingly unsentimental.”

    St. Petersburg Times

  • “Shockingly brilliant…It will make you gasp…Undoubtedly one of the most effective, memorable books to deal with the internment crisis…The maturity of Otsuka’s…prose is astonishing.”

    Bloomsbury Review

  • “Heartbreaking, bracingly unsentimental…Rais[es] the specter of wartime injustice in bone-chilling fashion…The novel’s honesty and matter-of-fact tone in the face of inconceivable injustice are the source of its power…Dazzling.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Otsuka…demonstrates a breathtaking restraint and delicacy throughout this supple and devastating first novel.”


  • Runner-up for the 2002 Barnes & Noble Discover Award
  • One of the 2002 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Fiction
  • Winner of a 2003 YALSA Alex Award
  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Katie | 2/16/2014

    " Chosen for the one book, one community read for Loudoun County Public Libraries, this became the chosen novel for the staff book club. It was super short: I read it on a plane ride from Omaha to Dallas. I really liked the style of the book: no character names for the Japanese, a few scenes to give a glimpse and understand the shame that the characters felt. I wish that there had been more though because I did not feel invested in the characters; I just hate that the camps existed. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Phoebe Mogarei | 2/12/2014

    " Beautiful writing, understated and far from dramatic, which made that much more of an effect. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Jennifer Carole | 2/7/2014

    " Really good. Historical fiction. Fast read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Stephanie A. | 2/6/2014

    " My brother had to read this for a high school English class, so I tackled the same challenge. It's surprisingly pretty writing, if you can get past all the burning and pet killing. "

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