restricted access Alien Enemies in Julie Otsuka’s When the Emperor Was Divine

This essay explores a recent reimagination of Japanese internment in order to suggest a way of understanding Asian American subjects as something more than immigrants: they are enemies. Julie Otsuka’s 2002 novel When the Emperor Was Divine subjects an unnamed, typical American family to military detention, evacuation, and forced incarceration. Compelled to identify with Enemy Japan, the members of the family transform into alien, treacherous beings. My reading focuses on small expressions of allegiance to Emperor Hirohito, who becomes a dangerous and tantalizing figure of desire in the novel.