Author Julie Otsuka at Marymount on May 5

The public is invited to a free talk by author Julie Otsuka on her acclaimed novel “When the Emperor Was Divine” at 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 5 at Marymount University’s Reinsch Library Auditorium, 2807 North Glebe Road. A reception and book signing will follow in the Lee Reception Room. The event is sponsored by the English Department.

The novel was read by hundreds of Marymount composition students this year, part of an annual tradition in which Marymount engages in a campus-wide discussion of a book, concluding with the selected author visiting campus. Also chosen for the community-wide Arlington Reads, Otsuka will discuss the book at the Arlington Central Library that night at 7 p.m.

Published in 2002 by Knopf, the author’s debut novel is loosely based on her family history: Otsuka’s grandfather was arrested as a suspected spy for Japan the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, and her mother, uncle and grandmother spent three years in a Utah internment camp. USA Today described the novel as “A gem of a book and one of the most vivid history lessons you’ll ever learn.”

Her second novel, “The Buddha in the Attic” (Knopf, 2011), tells of a group of young Japanese ‘picture brides’ who sailed to America in the early 1900s to become the wives of men they had never met. It won the PEN/Faulkner Award, France’s Prix Femina Étranger, the Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction, and was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Born and raised in California, Otsuka studied art as an undergraduate at Yale University and pursued a painting career before turning to fiction at age 30. She received her Master’s of Fine Arts degree from Columbia and lives in New York.

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Julie Otsuka