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Otsuka’s ‘When the Emperor Was Divine’ Novel Experience book

Julie Otsuka 382x255
2010-09-23

(Photo by Jack Bauer) 

Novelist to discuss first work in Sept. 28 program
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Acclaimed novelist Julie Otsuka will speak at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 28, at Wofford College for The Novel Experience Convocation. Her debut novel, “When the Emperor Was Divine,” was the summer reading selection for the college’s first-year students.

The program, which is free and open to the public, will be held in Leonard Auditorium in Main Building.

Earlier this month, the new students participated in the traditional town-and-gown event in which each humanities section visited a select Spartanburg restaurant to dine and discuss the novel. Students also wrote essays on a common question about the novel, and the best essays from each section were chosen and published in a special brochure to be distributed at the convocation. The students whose essays were selected will have lunch with Otsuka following the program.

The Novel Experience is an innovative program that brings the author of the assigned summer reading book to campus to interact with students. This is the ninth year for the program. Previous authors have been Ron Rash (“One Foot in Eden”), Ha Jin (“Waiting”), Charles Johnson (“Middle Passages”), Geraldine Brooks (“Year of Wonders”), Orson Scott Card (“Ender’s Game”), Larry Heinemann (“Paco’s Story”), Josephine Humphreys (“Rich in Love”), and Sheri Reynolds (“A Gracious Plenty”).

Inspired by the experience of her family members in the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II, Otsuka made her writing debut in 2002 with this spare and intimate portrayal of one Berkeley family over the years that the U.S. government detained them. Told from a different point of view in each chapter, “When the Emperor Was Divine” offers a quiet glimpse of a father, mother, daughter and son forced to assume the role of political prisoners on Dec. 8, 1941.

Otsuka, a native of Palo Alto, Calif., studied art at Yale University. After pursuing a career as a painter, she turned to fiction at age 30. One of her short stories was included in Scribner’s “Best of the Fiction Workshops 1998,” edited by Carol Shields.