I teach ch.1 from Julie Otsuka's novel When the Emperor was Divine in my short story unit. Below is how I describe the lesson to my students. The goal of this lesson is to teach students to understand that author's choices matter--that the painting on a character's wall or the music playing on a character's radio isn't randomly chosen. Authors make careful decisions and these decisions help readers understand the idea authors are trying to convey in literature.
When you read literature, understand that authors rarely make random choices. What they include in a story--the secondary characters, the setting, the weather, the items characters use or come in contact with, and even the character's names--all work to convey an idea (theme) the writer wants to convey.
Sometimes you might not be familiar with many of the cultural references. However, a brief search on the internet can usually provide you information about the reference.
Today we are going to read the first chapter of Julie Otsuka's novel When the Emperor was Divine. Otsuka's novel is set in Berkeley, California in 1942, just months since the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor. It describes how the lives of one Japanese American family are thrown into chaos after the American Government orders the internment of Japanese American citizens. In this opening chapter, a mother spends the day preparing to leave her home for an undetermined time. Maybe she and her children will be gone months. Maybe she'll be gone years. Maybe she will never be allowed to return.
What You Get
1. Pre-Reading Activities/Ch.1 questions
2. Annotated list of links to many of the cultural references mentioned in ch.1