When Julie Otsuka’s mother was 10 years old, she was put on a train with blacked-out windows and sent away from her home in Berkeley to an internment camp for Japanese-Americans in the Utah desert. Otsuka’s mother lived there for three years with her relatives and other Japanese-Americans in the years following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.
The story Otsuka tells in her 2002 novel, “When the Emperor Was Divine,” is loosely based on her family’s experiences in the 1940s. Otsuka shared that history with ninth- and 10th-graders Thursday at Hoover High School as part of the new “One Book, One Glendale” program.
The Glendale Public Library launched the “One Book, One Glendale” program this fall, and children and adults citywide read two books about the Japanese-American experience during World War II. Otsuka’s book was the suggested reading for teens and adults, and Cynthia Kadohata’s book, “Weedflower,” was chosen for children in grades 4 through 8.