Julie Otsuka biography

Author Biography  | Interview  | Books by this Author  | Readalikes

Julie Otsuka
Photo: Jerry Bauer

Julie Otsuka

Julie Otsuka Biography

Julie Otsuka is the author of the novels When the Emperor Was Divine, winner of the Asian American Literary Award and the American Library Association Alex Award, and The Buddha in the Attic, an international bestseller and winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Prix Femina étranger, the Albatros Literaturpreis and a finalist for the National Book Award. She is also the author of The Swimmers. A recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, she lives in New York City, where she writes every afternoon in her neighborhood café.

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 Swimmers jacket 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 parents. He grew up in Kuala Lumpur before moving to Britain to attend university. He is the author of three critically acclaimed novels – The Harmony Silk Factory (2005), which ... (more)

  • Amy Bloom

    Amy Bloom

    Author of three New York Times best-sellers and three collections of short stories, a children's book (another coming in 2022) and a ground-breaking collection of essays. Bloom has been a nominee for both the National Book ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    The Swimmers

    Try:
    In Love
    by Amy Bloom

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