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Julie Otsuka Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

When the Emperor Was Divine (2002)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Buddha in the Attic (2011)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Swimmers (2022)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Julie Otsuka
Julie Otsuka was born on May 15, 1962 in Palo Alto, California. After she studied art as an undergraduate at Yale University she pursued a career as a painter for several years before she turned to fiction writing at the age of thirty.

She got her MFA from Columbia, and is a recipient of the American Library Association Alex Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Asian American Literary Award.

“When the Emperor Was Divine” was a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year, a New York Times Notable Book, the Asian American Literary Award, and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers finalist. It has been translated into six languages and has sold over a quarter of a million copies. The book has been assigned to all of the incoming freshman at over 35 colleges and universities and is a regular ‘Communities Reads” selection all across the United States.

The novel is also based off Otsuka’s real family history, as her grandpa had gotten arrested by the FBI as a suspected spy for Japan the next day after the Pearl Harbor bombing, and her uncle, mom, and grandma spent three years in an internment camp located in Topaz, Utah.

“The Buddha in the Attic” was nominated for both a National Book Award in the year 2011 as well as an International IMPAC Dublin Literary Awards Best Novel. It won the Prix Femina etranger, a PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction Best Book, and the Albatros Literaturpreis.

Julie’s fiction has been published in 100 Years of The Best American Short Stories, Harper’s, Newsweek, The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story, The Best American Nonrequired Reading of 2012, The Best American Short Stories 2012, and Granta. It’s also been read out loud on BBC Radio 4’s “Book at Bedtime” and PRI’s “Selected Shorts”.

She lives in New York City where she writes each and every afternoon in her neighborhood cafe.

“When the Emperor Was Divine” is the first stand alone novel and was released in the year 2002. Julie’s commanding debut paints a portrait about the Japanese internment camps that is unlike any we’ve ever seen before. She uses one family in particular to evoke the deracination (both emotional and physical) of a generation of Japanese Americans.

In five chapters, each one being executed flawlessly from a different perspective. The son in the desert encampment. The family’s returning on back to their home. The daughter on the long train ride to the camp. The mom getting the order to evacuate. And the bitter release of the dad after over four years in captivity. The result of it all is a tiny tour de force, a book of unrelenting economy and suppressed emotion.

Intimate, spare, and arrestingly understated, and is a haunting evocation of one family during wartime and is an unmistakably resonant lesson for modern times. It also heralds a singularly gifted new novelist’s arrival.

The USA Today has described it as a gem of a novel and is one of the most vivid history lessons that you are ever going to learn, and the New York Times has called this novel a beautifully nuanced and resonant achievement. Her writing is incredibly beautiful and her prose is incredibly lyrical that makes it feel poetic.

“The Buddha in the Attic” is the second stand alone novel and was released in the year 2011. This novel tells the story of this group of young women being brought over from Japan to San Francisco as ‘picture brides’ almost a century prior.

In eight incantatory sections, “The Buddha in the Attic” traces their extraordinary lives, from their arduous journey by boat, where they exchange pictures of their husbands and imagining their own uncertain futures, to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new brides.
Then to their backbreaking work picking fruit out in the fields and scrubbing white women’s floors, to their struggles to master a new culture and a new language, to their experiencing childbirth, and finally as moms, raising their kids that will ultimately reject their history and their heritage and to the deracinating arrival of war.

In language which has the force and fury of poetry, Julie’s written a singularly spellbinding book all about the American dream. Julie’s underrated masterpiece with ferocious yet lyrical prose where each and every sentence tells a story of its own. The imagery that she invokes is incredibly stunning throughout. It is sure to leave you breathless, and right from the beginning, when you first meet some of these characters, you know that you’re going to be in for a special book. Readers were transported to whole other world and another time that isn’t really documented all that much.

“The Swimmers” is the third stand alone novel and was released in the year 2022. Up above there are epic droughts, paper jams, wildfires, teachers’ strikes, smog alerts, revolutions, insurrections, record breaking summers of unendurable heat, however down below, at the pool, it is always a comfy eighty-one degrees.

Alice is a member of this group of obsessed recreational swimmers whose lives revolve around their local swimming pool. It is a place of unexpected freedom, kinship, and ritual. Until this one day that a crack shows up underneath its surface.

While cracks also start appearing in Alice’s own memory, her daughter and husband are stuck facing the dilemma of how it’d be best to care for her. While she clings to the tethers of her past in a Home that she feels absolutely certain is not her home, her daughter then has to navigate the newly broken landscape of their relationship.

A novel about memory and grief, daughters and moms, love and implacable loss. Readers are in awe of how such a graceful and beautiful book can possibly hold so much loss, grief, and love in its pages, and is truly a literary gem.

This is an unforgettable book delivered to readers by a spellbinding talent all about daughters and moms that is deeply moving and stylistically ambitious. Julie delivers an astoundingly good and heartbreaker of a read.

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