Vermont Reads 2009

Last Updated 5/17/2011 3:56:52 PM

A Statewide, One-Book Community Reading Program

Vermont Reads 2009

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka 



“Always, he would remember the dust. It was soft and white and chalky, like talcum powder. Only the alkaline made your skin burn. It took your voice away. The dust got into your shoes. Your hair. Your pants. Your mouth. Your bed. Your dreams.”
– Ten-year-old boy
relocated to Utah















Told from multiple points of view, When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka chronicles the heartbreaking evacuation experience of an unnamed Japanese-American family during World War II. Otsuka’s novel takes an unflinching and unsentimental look inside a stark shadow of America’s past: the Japanese-American internment camps.

When the Emperor Was Divine explores themes that invite discussion and extension activities: fear, loneliness, heroism, the American dream and its deferment, cultural divides, and how a family, a community, or a country responds when under duress.

Vermont Reads brings communities and people of all ages together to read a book and do activities centered around it.

Seventy-four communities took part in Vermont Reads 2009. Libraries, schools, and other organizations hosted more than 250 events. Along with book discussions, host communities held Japanese culture workshops that included brush painting, kite making, origami, sushi making, Mah Jongg, flower arranging, and tea ceremonies. Other activities included photo displays, film screenings, and lectures.

In September 2009, 270 students and community members gathered at venues in Brattleboro, Burlington (as part of the Burlington Book Festival), and St. Johnsbury to hear author Julie Otsuka read from and sign her book and answer questions.

Vermont Public Radio aired a five-part series on the book, including author interviews and readings, and insights from Vermont historians and local descendents of those who had been interned during World War II.

Vermont Reads When the Emperor Was Divine Information Packet








Vermont Reads 2009 Sponsors


Media Partner
With support from the Jack & Dorothy Byrne Foundation


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