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The author’s family (grandmother in coat and hat; uncle—boy in front; mother—girl with braids turned away from the camera) shortly after their arrival at the assembly center at the Tanforan Race Track in San Bruno, California, on April 29, 1942. Five months later they were transported to an incarceration camp in Topaz, Utah, for the duration of the war.

“To watch Emperor catching on with teachers and students in vast numbers… is to grasp what must have happened at the outset for novels like Lord of the Flies or To Kill a Mockingbird or A Separate Peace.”

—Samuel G. Freedman, The New York Times


Inspired by her own family’s experience of incarceration during World War II, Julie Otsuka made her debut in 2002 with When the Emperor Was Divine, which Susan Salter of the Los Angeles Times called “a story that has more power than any other I have read about this time.” The book was greeted with rapturous praise upon publication and won several prizes including the American Library Association Alex Award and the New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age Award. It is regularly selected by universities and cities for ‘One Reads’ programs and is extremely popular with informal book clubs.


Julie Otsuka travels the country frequently to speak about her novels and the history of the Japanese-American incarceration.


For fees and availability, please contact:
Kelsey Day



Campus Reads

When the Emperor Was Divine and The Buddha in the Attic have been selected as the Common Read by the following schools, colleges and universities, which Otsuka has visited to speak about her books:


Allegheny College, Meadville, PA

Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah, GA

Augustana College, Rock Island, IL (Virtual)

Bard College at Simon’s Rock
Bay State College, Boston, MA

Brandeis University, Waltham, MA

California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, CA

California State University Bakersfield, CA

California State University Sacramento, CA

California State University Stanislaus, CA

Champlain College, Burlington, VT

Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia, PA

Choate Rosemary Hall, Wallingford, CT

College of Idaho, Caldwell, ID

College of Mt. St. Joseph’s, Cincinnatti, OH

Collin College, Plano, TX

Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School, Bloomfield Hills, MI

CSU Monterey Bay, CA

Cuesta Community College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA

Eureka College, Eureka, IL

Framingham State University, Framingham, MA

Green River Community College, Auburn, WA

Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN

Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, AR

Highline College, Des Moines, WA (Virtual)

Howard Community College, Columbia, MD

Johnson & Wales University, Charlotte, NC

Loyola College, Baltimore, MD

Middlesex Community College, Lowell, MA

Minnesota State Univ., Mankato, MN

New York Institute of Technology, NY

Niagara University, Niagara, NY

Northwestern Connecticut Community College, Winsted, CT

Norwalk, Connecticut Community College

Raritan Valley Community College, Branchburg, NJ

Rhode Island College, Providence, RI

Seattle Pacific University, WA (Virtual)

Simmons College, Boston, MA

Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, IL

St. Joseph Preparatory School, Philadelphia, PA

St. Louis University, St. Louis, MO

St. Mary’s College of Maryland

SUNY Old Westbury

Syracuse University, School of Education, Syracuse, NY

Temple University, Philadelphia, PA

University of Delaware, Newark, DE

University of Mt. Union, Alliance, OH

University of South Alabama, Mobile, AL

University of South Carolina Upstate, Spartanburg , SC

University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC

University of the Pacific, Stockton, CA

Utah State University, Logan, UT

Viterbo University, La Crosse, WI (Virtual)

Washington University, St. Louis, MO

Wheelock College, Boston, MA

Wofford College, Spartanburg, SC


Community Reads

When the Emperor Was Divine and The Buddha in the Attic have been selected as the Community Read by the following cities and states, which Otsuka has visited to speak about her books:


Arlington, VA

Auburn, CA

Boulder, CO

Cheshire, CT

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (Virtual)

Fort Collins, CO

Galesburg, IL (Virtual)

Glendale, CA

Greenwich, CT

Greenwich, CT

Howard County, MD

Johnson County, IA

Loudoun County, VA

Palo Alto, CA (Virtual)

Philadelphia, PA

Salt Lake City, UT

Santa Barbara, CA

Seattle, WA

Silicon Valley, CA

St. Charles, IL

Terre Haute, IN

Topeka and Shawnee County, KS

Vermont Reads

Waukesha, WI (Virtual)

Westport, CT

Wilton, CT

Winnetka, IL

Winsted, CT


Academic Contact


Keith Goldsmith

Executive Director of Academic Marketing

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group



When the Emperor Was Divine

Common Reads & First-Year Experience Programs


The Buddha in the Attic

Common Reads & First-Year Experience Programs

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