Julie Otsuka, author of the book “When the Emperor Was Divine,” will speak at Niagara University on Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m. in the upper level of the Gallagher Center. The event is free and open to the public; a book signing will follow. Otsuka’s talk is presented by Niagara Reads, the university’s summer reading program for first-year students.
Otsuka’s book details the experience of a Japanese-American family forced to live in an internment camp during World War II. After a woman whose husband was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy sees notices posted around her neighborhood in Berkeley, Calif., instructing Japanese-Americans to evacuate, she prepares to gowith her young son and daughter to an internment camp in the Utah desert and severs her ties with her community. The next three years are spent in unpleasant, cramped and impersonal lodgings. The family returns to Berkeley after the war to a home that has been ravaged by vandals; it takes time for them to adjust to life outside the camps and to come to terms with the hostility they face.
The Niagara Reads program was launched eight years ago to provide freshmen with a common, intellectually stimulating experience that sets the tone for serious college work. Books are chosen for their quality, their ability to engage and relate to first-year students, their consistency with the university’s mission, and their potential to spark lively intellectual discussion. Past books include “Escape from Slavery,” by Francis Bok; “Nickel and Dimed,” by Barbara Ehrenreich; and “All But My Life,” by Gerda Weissmann Klein.