Julie Otsuka is one of the greatest and most important writers of our time. I will die on this hill. Here at Literary Hub dot com, I have very adamantly and repeatedly made a case for The Buddha in the Attic being one of the best books ever, for the way she portrays the singular and shared experiences of Japanese “picture brides” immigrating to California, and for the way she absolutely break down narrative expectations at the end.
But I digress. Julie Otsuka’s award-winning When the Emperor Was Divine made the news in Wisconsin recently because it was rejected by a school board and barred from a tenth grade English’s class curriculum. Ah, the wave of book banning continues. Based on her family’s own story, this novel follows a Japanese American family forced out of their California home and sent to an internment camp in Utah. It is a heartbreaking and vital tale—and it is being contested on the grounds that it is too “diverse,” “too sad,” and that its inclusion in the course reading would provide an “unbalanced” account of history.
Thankfully, there is a parent/community-driven petition going around to contest these absurd excuses. To remove When the Emperor Was Divine from the curriculum is to grossly ignore a significant chapter in American history—and to deprive these students of a really, really good book.
Anyway, here’s some further reading, because you’re here:
Julie Otsuka on writing memory loss and her most personal story
Sharon Harrigon on the power of the first personal plural
Daphne Palasi Andreades on the strength of women of color
*[via the Washington Examiner]