On a sunny day in Berkeley, California, in 1942, a woman sees a sign in a post office window, returns to her house, and matter-of-factly begins to pack her family’s possessions.

Like thousands of other Japanese Americans they have been reclassified, virtually overnight, as enemy aliens and are about to be uprooted from their homes and sent to a dusty internment camp in the Utah desert.

In this lean and devastatingly evocative first novel, Julie Otsuka tells the story of one Japanese American family from five flawlessly realized points of view—the mother receiving the order to evacuate; the daughter on the long train ride to the camp; the son in the desert encampment; the family’s return to their home; and the bitter release of the father after almost four years in captivity. When the Emperor Was Divine is a work of enormous power that makes a shameful episode of our history as immediate as today’s headlines. – www.julieotsuka.com

Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen (2020)

Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen (2020)

Jose Antonio Vargas takes audiences deeper into his story, sharing details of his journey to America from the Philippines as a child; his journey through America as an immigration reform activist; and his journey inward as he reconnects with his mother, whom he hadn’t seen in person in over 20 years.

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Educated: A Memoir (2019)

Educated: A Memoir (2019)

Educated: A MemoirTara Westover Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an...

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Lab Girl (2018)

Lab Girl (2018)

Lab Girl Hope Jahren   Geobiologist Hope Jahren has spent her life studying trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Lab Girl is her revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also a celebration of the lifelong curiosity, humility, and passion that drive every...

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The Underground Railroad (2017)

The Underground Railroad (2017)

The Underground Railroad Colson Whitehead Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When...

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2016 Common Reader Essay Contest

Open to All First Year Students Discuss how you see the similarities and differences in the perception and treatment of Japanese Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor, and of Muslim Americans following the attacks of September 11, 2001, and current events...

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Julie Otsuka

Julie Otsuka

Julie Otsuka is the author of two novels, The Buddha in the Attic, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award, France’s Prix Femina Étranger, and was a finalist for the National Book Award, and When the Emperor Was Divine, which won the Asian American Literary Award and the American Library Association Alex Award. Her work has been translated into more than twenty languages and sold over 600,000 copies. Her short story, ‘Diem Perdidi’, will be included in ‘100 Years of the Best American Short Stories’, which will be published in October 2015. A recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and an Arts and Letters Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she lives in New York City, where she writes every afternoon in her neighborhood café.

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