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Julie Otsuka

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Julie Otsuka
Born (1962-05-15) May 15, 1962 (age 62)
Palo Alto, California, U.S.
Alma materYale University
Columbia University
GenreHistorical fiction
Notable worksWhen the Emperor was Divine
The Buddha in the Attic
RelativesMichael Otsuka

Julie Otsuka (born May 15, 1962) is an American author.


Otsuka was born in 1962, in Palo Alto, California. Her father worked as an aerospace engineer and her mother worked as a lab technician before she gave birth to Otsuka. Both of her parents were of Japanese descent, with her father being an issei and her mother being a nisei.[1] When she was nine, her family moved to Palos Verdes, California. She has two brothers, one of whom, Michael Otsuka, teaches at the London School of Economics.[2]

After graduating from high school, Otsuka attended Yale University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in art in 1984. She graduated from Columbia University with a Master of Fine Arts in 1999.[3][4] Her debut novel, When the Emperor was Divine, deals with Japanese American internment during World War II. It was published in 2002 by Alfred A. Knopf. Her second novel, The Buddha in the Attic (2011), is about Japanese picture brides.

Otsuka's historical fiction novels deal with Japanese Americans and call attention to their plight during World War II. Although she did not live through the Japanese internment period, her mother, uncle, and two grandparents did, giving Otsuka a personal perspective on the matter.[5] When the Emperor was Divine portrays Japanese internment camps. Otsuka has a background as a painter, and her books have vivid imagery.[6] She is a recipient of the Albatros Literaturpreis.

Otsuka lives in New York City.[7]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 2004, Otsuka received a Guggenheim Fellowship.[8]

In 2011, The Buddha in the Attic was a New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle bestseller.

In 2022, Publishers Weekly named The Swimmers one of the top ten works of fiction published that year.[9]

Awards for Otsuka's writing
Year Title Award Category Result Ref.
2003 When the Emperor Was Divine Asian American Literary Award Won [10]
Alex Award Won [11]
2011 The Buddha in the Attic National Book Award Fiction Finalist [12]
Los Angeles Times Book Prize Fiction Finalist [13]
Langum Prize Historical Fiction Won [14]
2012 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Won [15]
Arts and Letters Awards Literature Won [16]
Prix Femina Étranger Won [17]
2014 Albatros Literaturpreis Won [18]
2023 The Swimmers Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence Fiction Won [19]


  • When the Emperor was Divine. New York City: Alfred A. Knopf. 2002. ISBN 978-0-385-72181-3.
  • "Diem Perdidi" (2011) is a short story that follows the scattered memories of the protagonist's mother as her mother's dementia progresses.[20]


  1. ^ Oh, Seiwoong (2010). Encyclopedia of Asian-American Literature. Infobase Publishing. p. 232. ISBN 978-1-4381-2088-1.
  2. ^ Ciabattari, Jane (September 16, 2011). "Novelist Julie Otsuka talks about her new novel which follows the lives of Japanese picture brides coming to America in the 1920s—and her own families' struggles here". The Daily Beast. Retrieved July 15, 2012.
  3. ^ "Julie Otsuka". University of the Pacific. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved July 15, 2012.
  4. ^ Yackley, Rachel Baruch (March 24, 2007). "Family's experience colors novel about internment". Daily Herald. Paddock Publications. Retrieved July 16, 2012. (subscription required)
  5. ^ "Julie Otsuka Interview | IndieBound.org". www.indiebound.org. Retrieved 2023-09-05.
  6. ^ Amato. "Julie Otsuka". Julie Otsuka. Archived from the original on 14 August 2019. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  7. ^ "About Julie Otsuka". julieotsuka.com. Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  8. ^ Julie Otsuka - John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, "Julie Otsuka - John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation". Archived from the original on 2013-01-04. Retrieved 2012-12-30.
  9. ^ "Best Books 2022: Publishers Weekly". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 2022-10-27.
  10. ^ "'When the Emperor was Divine'... and When Japanese Americans Were Rounded Up". Asia Society. Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  11. ^ "Alex Awards | Awards & Grants". www.ala.org. Retrieved 2022-10-27.
  12. ^ "5 Under 35". Shelf Awareness. September 28, 2012. Retrieved 2022-10-08.
  13. ^ "2011 Los Angeles Times Book Prize – Fiction Winner and Nominees". Awards Archive. 2020-03-25. Retrieved 2022-03-11.
  14. ^ "Past Winners of the David J. Langum Sr. Prizes". The Langum Charitable Trust. Archived from the original on June 30, 2012. Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  15. ^ "Past Winners & Finalists". Archived from the original on 2013-12-21. Retrieved 2018-07-03.
  16. ^ ""2012 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award"". Archived from the original on 2012-10-17. Retrieved 2012-09-05.
  17. ^ "US writer Julie Otsuka wins Femina foreign novel prize". France24. November 6, 2012. Retrieved November 6, 2012.
  18. ^ "Albatros-Literaturpreis an Julie Otsuka und Katja Scholtz". Focus. 15 December 2013. Retrieved December 17, 2013.
  19. ^ JCARMICHAEL (2022-10-03). "2023 Winners". Reference & User Services Association (RUSA). Retrieved 2023-02-22.
  20. ^ Otsuka, Julie. "Diem Perdidi". Granta Magazine, vol. 117. October 27, 2011.

External links[edit]