Julie Otsuka biography

Author Biography  | Interview  | Books by this Author  | Readalikes

Julie Otsuka
Photo: Jerry Bauer

Julie Otsuka

Julie Otsuka Biography

Julie Otsuka was born and raised in California. She is a graduate of Yale University and received her M.F.A. from Columbia. She is the author of the novels When the Emperor was Divine and The Buddha in the Attic and a recipient of the Asian American Literary Award, the American Library Association Alex Award, and a Guggenheim fellowship. She lives in New York City.

Julie Otsuka's website

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Interview

Julie Otsuka talks about the biographical aspects of her first novel set in a World War II Japanese internment camp in the USA, and the comparisons between this period in history and current events following Sept 11th.

What was your inspiration for setting the novel, When the Emperor Was Divine, in the Japanese internment camps in the U.S. during World War II?
Quite truthfully, I never set out to write a novel about the internment camps. I started out writing—or trying to write—comedy, in fact, and never thought of myself as a "serious" writer. But images of the war kept surfacing in my work, so for reasons I didn't quite understand, the war was something I needed to write about.

The obvious inspiration for the novel is my own family's history. My grandfather was arrested by the FBI the day after Pearl Harbor and incarcerated in various camps administered by the Department of Justice for "dangerous enemy aliens." My mother, my uncle and my grandmother were interned for three and a half years in Topaz, Utah.

My grandfather died when I was quite young, so I don't remember much about him, but one day, several years ago, we found a box in my grandmother's house. Inside the box were letters and postcards my grandfather had written to his wife and children during the war. My mother read them first and I remember her telling me afterwards, "It's like reading a story," and it was, but a rather one-...

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Books by this Author

Books by Julie Otsuka at BookBrowse
The Buddha in the Attic jacket When The Emperor was Divine jacket
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Readalikes

All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Julie Otsuka but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose readalikes

  • Tash Aw

    Tash Aw

    Tash Aw was born in Taipei to Malaysian-Chinese parents and grew up in Kuala Lumpar. He moved to England at 18 to attend university, where he studied Law at Cambridge and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.

    He ... (more)

  • Dennis Bock

    Dennis Bock

    Dennis Bock is a Canadian novelist from Belleville, Ontario. His first book of stories, Olympia, won the 1998 Canadian Authors’ Association Jubilee Award, the inaugural Danuta Gleed Award for best first collection of ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    When The Emperor was Divine

    Try:
    The Ash Garden
    by Dennis Bock

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Editor's Choice

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Book Discussion
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A love story for things lost and restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness.

About the book
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Readers Recommend

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