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Evening Book Group: When the Emperor Was Divine

Book cover shows the author's name and title overlaid on a photograph of a pair of hands cupped to offer a red origami bird. The hands belong to a person dressed in a kimono.

The SBPL Evening Book Group meets on the 4th Thursday of every month. Enjoy a stimulating conversation about books and exchange perspectives about characters and plot while getting to know your neighbors. Join us in May as we talk about When the Emperor Was Divine, by Julie Otsuka.

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.

This book is available to borrow from the library. Book group reserve copies will be available one month ahead of the discussion. Discussion will be hybrid, with in-person and Zoom options.

Email sbplprograms@southburlingtonvt.gov or call 802-846-4140 if you have questions or would like to be added to the email list for this group, or if you would like to attend via Zoom.

The Library is ADA accessible, patrons are asked to call (802) 846-4140 in advance if special services are required.

Masks may be worn in the library and at any library program.