Sunday, January 8, 2006

50BC06 #1: When the Emperor Was Divine

Book #1:
Julie Otsuka

To take shame and mold it into an artful looking glass takes a talent not shared by many writers. Julie Otsuka’s novel is a heartbreaking account of the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, related without the heavy-handedness that usually accompanies tales of such dire circumstance.
Otsuka assumes intelligence and social conscience in her readers, so much so that she feels at liberty to be subtly irreverent, never once beating one over the head with angst. If disgust could be elegant, that is how I would best describe Otsuka’s approach.
But her elegance in her writing does not take away from the grit—the reality of suffering. This suffering is summed up in a final “Confession” of the book’s hidden protagonist—albeit too quickly. The end almost seems a bit trite given the journey through which the reader has traversed with the other characters.
Aside from the abrupt final cadence, Emperor tells a story that is as much a tale of Everyman as it is a fitting remembrance of one of the most shocking embarrassments of American history.
(Actually posted 9/8/08, transfered from original post 1/8/06)

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