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February 24, 2018

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Library News Release

Release Date: 03/04/2005

'Seattle Reads When the Emperor Was Divine' gets everyone reading and talking about Julie Otsuka's powerful novel

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In 1998, The Seattle Public Library launched a program to get Seattleites reading and discussing the same book. "If All of Seattle Read the Same Book" is now an annual event and has been widely emulated in cities, states and countries around the world.

In this seventh year of the series - now called "Seattle Reads" - The Seattle Public Library has selected "When the Emperor Was Divine" (Anchor Books, 2003) by Julie Otsuka. Otsuka will visit Seattle May 2-5, to talk with readers about her powerful debut novel.

Copies of "When the Emperor Was Divine" are now available for book discussion groups. Contact or (206) 615-1747 for more information. All locations of The Seattle Public Library and several local bookstores have reading group toolboxes (reader's guides) for the novel.

Otsuka's upcoming public appearances are free and open to the public. Tickets and reservations are not required. The times, dates and locations of Otsuka's appearances are outlined below.

Meet Julie Otsuka
Members of the public are invited to meet Otsuka to discuss her book.


A Conversation with Julie Otsuka
Marcie Sillman, arts reporter for KUOW 94.9 Northwest Public Radio, will moderate "A Conversation with Julia Otsuka" at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 3, at the Central Library, Microsoft Auditorium, 1000 Fourth Ave.

Tom Ikeda, executive director of Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project, will moderate "A Conversation with Julie Otsuka" at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 5 at IslandWood, 4450 Blakely Ave. N.E., Bainbridge. (Bainbridge Joins Seattle Reads)

BCC and SCCC Reads
Members of the public are invited to join faculty and students to meet Otsuka and discuss her book at two community college programs.

  • 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 4, at Bellevue Community College, Carlson Theatre, 3000 Landerholm Circle S.E.
  • 11 a.m. and noon Thursday, May 5, at Seattle Central Community College, Broadway Performance Hall, 1625 Broadway.


Books will be available for purchase and signing at all Seattle events, courtesy of The Elliott Bay Book Co.

See below for a list of other related programs and events at The Seattle Public Library Central Library:

  • View 'Executive Order 9066: Fifty Years Before and After' April 25 through May 28 at Central Library
  • Join Living Voices for 'Within the Silence: Share the Courage' May 11 at Central Library
  • Join The 5th Avenue Theatre for 'Baseball Saved Us' May 14 and 21 at Central Library


For other events in the community, visit

"When the Emperor Was Divine" is the story of an unnamed Japanese American family's internment during World War II. Shifting narrative points of view with each chapter, from the mother to the 11-year-old girl, to the 8-year-old boy, Otsuka portrays the devastation, dehumanization, and hardships of the camp experience.

Otsuka was born and raised in California and lives in New York. She attended Yale University, where she graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in art. After pursuing a career as a painter for several years, she turned to writing at age 30.

"Seattle Reads When the Emperor Was Divine" is presented by the Washington Center for the Book at The Seattle Public Library, the literary and humanities programming arm of the Library. It is part of "Reading Across the Map," a multi-year project to foster reading and discussion of works by authors of diverse cultures and ethnicities, made possible by The Wallace Foundation, with additional support from The Seattle Public Library Foundation, KUOW 94.9 Northwest Public Radio, and Anchor Books.

For more information contact:

Andra Addison, communications director

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