About

Julie_cropped.jpg

Photo: Jean-Luc Bertini

Julie Otsuka

Julie Otsuka was born and raised in California. After studying art as an undergraduate at Yale University she pursued a career as a painter for several years before later turning to writing. She received her MFA from Columbia University. Her first novel, When the Emperor Was Divine  (Knopf, 2002), is about the incarceration of a Japanese-American family during World War II. It is a winner of the Asian American Literary Award and the American Library Association's Alex Award, and was named a New York Times Notable Book and a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year. The book is based on Otsuka’s own family history: her grandfather was arrested by the FBI as a suspected spy for Japan the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, and her mother, uncle and grandmother spent three years in a prison camp in Topaz, Utah. When the Emperor Was Divine has been assigned to all incoming freshmen at more than 60 colleges and universities and is a regular ‘Community Reads’ selection across the US.

Her second novel, The Buddha in the Attic  (Knopf, 2011), is about a group of young Japanese ‘picture brides’ who sailed to America in the early 1900s to become the wives of men they had never met and knew only by their photographs. It is a winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, France’s Prix Femina Étranger, the Albatros Literaturpreis, the Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction, and was a finalist for the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. A New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times bestseller, The Buddha in the Attic has been translated into 22 languages. It was selected as a New York Times Notable Book, a San Francisco Chronicle and Boston Globe Best Book the Year, and was named a Top Ten Book by Library Journal and Vogue.

 

Her third novel, The Swimmers  (Knopf, 2022), is about a group of obsessed recreational swimmers and what happens to them when a crack appears at the bottom of their local pool.

 

Otsuka is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Arts and Letters Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her writing has appeared in Granta, Harper’s, Newsweek, 100 Years of The Best American Short Stories, The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story, The Best American Short Stories 2012, The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012, and has been read aloud on PRI’s “Selected Shorts” and BBC Radio 4’s “Book at Bedtime.” She lives in New York City, where she writes every afternoon in her neighborhood café.

Awards

2022    Children's Literature Association Phoenix Award, When the Emperor Was Divine • Winner

2014    Albatros Literaturpreis, The Buddha in the Attic • Winner

2013    International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, The Buddha in the Attic • Shortlist

2012    Prix Femina Étranger Foreign Novel Prize, The Buddha in the Attic • Winner

2012    American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature • Winner

2011    PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, The Buddha in the Attic • Winner

2011    National Book Award, The Buddha in the Attic • Finalist

2011    Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction, The Buddha in the Attic • Finalist

2011    Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction, The Buddha in the Attic • Winner

2004    Guggenheim Fellowship • Winner

2003    Asian American Literary Award, When the Emperor Was Divine • Winner

2003    American Library Association Alex Award, When the Emperor Was Divine • Winner

2003    Orange Prize, When the Emperor Was Divine • Longlist

2003    Barnes & Nobles Discover Great New Writers Award, When the Emperor Was Divine • Finalist

Novels

2022   The Swimmers

2011   The Buddha in the Attic

2002   When the Emperor Was Divine

Anthologies

2021   The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story

2015   100 Years of The Best American Short Stories

2014    Living in the Land of Limbo: Fiction and Poetry about Family Caregiving

2012    The Best American Short Stories

2012    The Best American Nonrequired Reading

Honors

2016   Judge, The National Book Award

2012   Judge, The National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Award