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Big Read 2020 - When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka: Home

King County Big Reads title for winter 2020.

NEA Big Read @ Highline

Never Again: Reflections on the Mass Incarceration of Japanese Americans During World War II
Panel Discussion
Monday, January 27, 2020
1:30 – 3 p.m. (PST)
Building 2

Moderated by Highline faculty member Nicole Filler, the panel will feature experts on the Japanese American internment, including Rachel Endo, author of The Incarceration of Japanese Americans in the 1940s: Literature for the High School Classroom, and Dean of the College of Education at the UW-Tacoma campus; Sarah Mattox, mezzo-soprano and composer of Heart Mountain Opera (an opera based on Japanese American internee writing and poetry)Bill Woodward, SPU professor emeritus of history; and former Highline faculty member Mira Shimabukuro, now Associate Dean for Diversity and Equity in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at UW Bothell and the author of Relocating Authority: Japanese Americans Writing to Redress Mass Incarceration.

Book Discussion
Monday, February 24, 2020
12:30 – 2 p.m. (PST)
Building 8, Mt. Constance room

Bring your lunch and join students, faculty, staff and community members to discuss When the Emperor was Divine in small groups and as a whole.

ONLINE: Author Event with Julie Otsuka in Discussion with Tom Ikeda of Densho
Tuesday, May 19
1:30 – 2:30 p.m. (PST)
Register Online

This online event is the culmination of our NEA Big Read at Highline College.  Best-selling author and Guggenheim Fellow Julie Otsuka will be discussing her work and family history with Tom Ikeda, the Executive Director of Denshō, the Seattle-based grass roots organization dedicated to preserving, educating, and sharing the story of World War II-era incarceration of Japanese Americans in order to deepen understandings of American history and inspire action for equity. 

NEA Big Read King County, Winter 2020

In Winter 2020, Highline College will partner with Seattle Pacific University, King County Library System and other institutions to host the NEA Big Read King County (click link to view full schedule) series of events on campus. Seattle Pacific University and Highline College received a $15,000 NEA grant to bring the Big Read author, Julie Otsuka,to speak at both campuses.This guide provides information about the events and programming that will be held throughout King County as well as information about the book and author. In addition, this guide includes titles about the detainment of Japanese Americans during WWII.

Grateful acknowledgement goes to

Highline College logo   HC Foundation logo

Seattle Pacific University log

     NEA Big Read KCLS logo

About the Book

Book cover for When the Emperor was Divine

Image from Amazon.

On a sunny day in Berkeley, California, in 1942, a woman sees a sign in a post office window, returns to her home, and matter-of-factly begins to pack her family's possessions. Like thousands of other Japanese Americans they have been reclassified, virtually overnight, as enemy aliens and are about to be uprooted from their home and sent to a dusty internment camp in the Utah desert.

In this lean and devastatingly evocative first novel, Julie Otsuka tells their story from five flawlessly realized points of view and conveys the exact emotional texture of their experience: the thin-walled barracks and barbed-wire fences, the omnipresent fear and loneliness, the unheralded feats of heroism.

When the Emperor Was Divine is a work of enormous power that makes a shameful episode of our history as immediate as today's headlines. (From the publisher.)