The poignant story of a Japanese-American family separated and interred during the Second World War is the subject of Julie Otsuka 's novel. When The Emperor Was Divine examines the fate of those who are caught up in events bigger than themselves. For one middle-class Japanese family living comfortably in Berkeley, California, the weeks following Pearl Harbour turn their American dream into a nightmare. After the father is arrested and taken away, the mother can only hope that by destroying all that they have of their Japanese roots she and her children will be spared the same fate. But despite her precautions, she and her two children are taken away. Through the eyes of the children, the story follows their train journey across the United States and to a camp in the deserts of Utah, where they discover they are now the "enemy". After three years, they return to their boarded and looted home. Eventually their father is returned to them, a damaged - and different - man.. Told from the perspective of each member of the family, this book reveals how it feels to be an alien in one 's own country.