When the Emperor was Divine
by Julie Otsuka has been chosen for Greenwich Reads Together 2013. The title was announced on Tuesday, December 18 at Greenwich Library in a ceremony attended by over 50 community members. Two thematically related companion books for younger readers were also announced. Greenwich Reads Together (GRT) is a community-wide reading experience which will engage all of Greenwich in exploring a single book.
On a sunny day in Berkeley, California, in 1942, a woman sees a sign in a post office window, returns to her home, and matter-of-factly begins to pack her family's possessions. Like thousands of other Japanese Americans they have been reclassified, virtually overnight, as enemy aliens and are about to be uprooted from their home and sent to a dusty internment camp in the Utah desert.
In this lean and devastatingly evocative novel, Julie Otsuka tells their story from five flawlessly realized points of view and conveys the exact emotional texture of their experience: the thin-walled barracks and barbed-wire fences, the omnipresent fear and loneliness, the unheralded feats of heroism. When the Emperor Was Divine is a work of enormous power that makes a shameful episode of our history as immediate as today's headlines.
Author Julie Otsuka is a recipient of the Asian American Literary Award, the American Library Association Alex Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her book The Buddha in the Attic won the PEN/ Faulkner Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Over 40 suggestions were submitted by the community covering a wide range of titles and genres. A selection committee carefully reviewed all of the titles. In order to be selected, the book had to be of high literary quality, reflective of universal issues and capable of generating thought-provoking discussions. It should also lend itself to engaging public programs and appeal to a diverse population. In addition, the book should be currently in print and available in large quantities and multiple formats.
The Selection Committee was comprised of Library staff including Roy Brayton, Joan Eaton, Stephen Schmidt, Alice Sherwood, Marianne Weill and Carolyn Zygmont; and community members Amy Fleishman, 2012 GRT co-chair; Karen Ball, Media Specialist at Eastern Middle School; and Sarah Better, a sophomore at Greenwich Academy.
Two companion books for younger readers were also announced: Best Friends Forever: a WWII Scrapbook by Beverly Patt and The Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salisbury.
The inaugural Greenwich Reads Together selection was Markus Zusak's groundbreaking novel, The Book Thief. The 2012 selection was Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. Last spring, almost 20 community organizations participated in Greenwich Reads Together, and more than 3,000 Greenwich residents participated in events, including a live Skype telecast with author Dave Eggers. Additional programs featured celebrated artists from literature, jazz, and photography, as well as renowned names from national news and government. Numerous adult, children and teen book discussions were held across Greenwich.
"Reading one book together will foster communication and spark ideas," said Carol Mahoney, Greenwich Library Director. "Greenwich Reads Together will bring together thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds to compare views and interpretations; share feelings and personal stories; view exhibitions, movies, and performances; attend classes and panel discussions, as well as workshops--all inspired by a common reading experience," said Mahoney.
Greenwich Reads Together will take place between April 22 and May 3. Free copies of the 2013 selection were distributed at the announcement ceremony. Copies are also available to borrow at Greenwich Library. They may also be purchased at local bookstores including Diane's Books.
High visibility sponsorships are available. For more information, please contact Sarah Falvo at (203) 622-7957 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Opportunities are available for community organizations and volunteers. Those interested should contact Kate Petrov at email@example.com.