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Author Julie Otsuka

When the Emperor Was Divine author Julie Otsuka

Julie Otsuka is the author of two critically acclaimed novels, When the Emperor Was Divine and The Buddha in the Attic. Otsuka, born in California, is of Japanese American descent. Writing in Poets & Writers,Renee H. Shea observed: “In both of her novels, Otsuka excavates and explores her personal Japanese heritage within a larger historical context.” An award-winning author, Otsuka did not intend to become a writer. Instead, she majored in art at Yale, but suffered an artistic crisis. “I stopped painting and I was in despair, in sort of a creative breakdown. I just couldn’t go on painting anymore,” the author told Kelley Kawano in an interview on the Random House Web site. “I was filled with doubt. And so for three years, I did nothing. I just read all day long. … That was really my only consolation. … At a certain point I signed up for a workshop and decided to try my hand at writing. … And I think I felt more comfortable with language; it seemed easier, to me, as a medium to work with than painting.” Subsequently, Otsuka earned a creative writing degree [MFA] from Columbia University; her master’s project was the story of her family’s internment during World War II and was reworked to become her debut novel. She is a recipient of the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Asian American Literary Award, the American Library Association Alex Award, an Arts and Letters Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and was a finalist for the National Book Award.

(“Julie Otsuka.” Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2012. Literature Resource Center. Web. 3 June 2013.)


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