When the Emperor Was Divine

In this novella, Julie Otsuka chronicles a family's experience in the American internment camps during World War II.  Never named but instead referred to as "the woman," "the boy," and "the girl," the characters experience the heartbreak and disillusionment of being forced from their home and relocated to a camp in the Utah desert.

β€œThe night of his arrest, he asked me to go get him a glass of water.  We'd just gone to bed and I was so tired.  I was exhausted.  So I told him to go get it himself.  'Next time I will,' he said, and then he rolled over and went right to sleep.  Later, as they were taking him away, all I could think was, 'Now he'll always be thirsty.'  Even now, in my dreams, he's still searching for water.”

Julie Otsuka is the author of When the Emperor Was Divine and The Buddha in the Attic Her writing has been widely published, including in Granta, Harper's, and numerous anthologies.  She lives in New York.

Published:  2002
Length:  142 pages
Set in:  Utah, United States