“When the Emperor Was Divine” by Julie Otsuka turned me into a Barnes & Nobel zenmaster. You know the type, they are always in the comfortable chairs & don’t notice that you keep circling them, hinting that their comfy chair time is up. If the zenmaster is male, he pays no attention to the fact that you are female, & while a little bit feminist, you still feel you are owed the comfy chair. They are oblivious to the fact that you have to go sit on the floor with your back leaned up against the poetry section, silently praying that no one from the astrology section asks you what your sign is. The zenmasters don’t notice that 2.3 Harry Connick Jr. songs are played over & over on the loudspeaker until it is announced that you may go buy the latest Harry Connick Jr. CD in the music department. The zenmasters are always in the middle of a book, leaving you the impression that person has been there for days. You can just give up any hopes of ever getting the comfy chair.
I’ve always been bothered by the Harry Connick Jr. music, or the elderly men who keep walking by instituting they are elderly & therefore deserve the comfy chair. Reading at Barnes & Noble is more complicated than a career in politics. I sat down with this book & read most of the 144 pages before I realized that I had been there for hours. I then bought the book & put it in a place of honor next to “Little Women”. It’s the tale of a Japanese family in a interment camp in Topaz, Utah during WWII. This book was absolutely captivating. The characters rename nameless, leaving the impression that it was the stories of thousands of people who lived through this. I’ve resolved to drive several hours to Topaz, even though there isn’t a museum there yet. The book is so powerful it has even inspired me to put on shoes when I don’t have to. This is the reason I read. Yes, the toaster pastry scale only goes to 5, but for this book I made an exception & gave it ten toaster pastries. Brilliant, simply brilliant.