The Big Read 2020

When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka

Community Ensembles

A gem of a book and one of the most vivid history lessons you’ll ever learn - USA Today

Julie Otsuka‘s When the Emperor Was Divine follows one Japanese family uprooted from its Berkeley home after the start of World War II. After being delivered to a racetrack in Utah, they are forcibly relocated to an internment camp. They spend two harrowing years there before returning to a home far less welcoming than it was before the war. Using five distinct but intertwined perspectives, Otsuka’s graceful prose evokes the family’s range of responses to internment. Culminating in a final brief and bitter chapter, Otsuka’s novel serves as a requiem for moral and civic decency in times of strife and fragmentation.

Click here to download a copy of the NEA Reader’s Guide. Art Center East works in partnership to bring the Fishtrap Big Read to Union County.

New this year! Look for the Big Read in participating La Grande School District classrooms and libraries.




2020 Union County Partners

Union County Events

Community Book Discussions
Feb 22, 29 + March 7, 14 from 4 - 6 pm
Hosted by JaxDog Cafe & Books. Free!

Big Read Art Day!
March 7 from 2 - 4 pm
Big Read activities for K-12 readers, inspired by the companion titles, So Far From the Sea, Write to Me, and Paper Wishes, featured in La Grande school library curriculum during the Big Read. Create art inspired by the books' illustrations, see your name written in Japanese characters, and try your hand at making onigiri, a popular Japanese snack food! Event organized by Mountain Valleys Reading Council and hosted by Art Center East. Free!


Tea in the Gallery: Japanese Teas 
March 15 from 1:00 - 3:00 pm
Taste a selection of Japanese teas and learn what makes the Japanese tea tradition so distinctive. Space is limited - register online.

Snow Dye Shibori & Sake
March 20 from 6:30 - 8:30 pm
Create a unique scarf using this traditional Japanese dying technique. Space is limited - register online

Wallowa County Events

Big Read Kickoff – When the Emperor was Divine
Wednesday, February 19
The Day of Remembrance with Chisao Hata in partnership with the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center. This kicks off five weeks of special events and book discussions throughout Wallowa and Union Counties.

Big Read Finale – Portland Taiko
Thursday, March 19
OK Theatre – Enterprise
This exiting Japanese drum performance group will do an evening performance, a school assembly, and teach a drum workshop on Friday morning.

More events to come…visit the Fishtrap website for updates in early 2020.

All Big Read events in Union and Wallowa Counties are free and open to all.

About The Big Read

The Big Read broadens our understanding of the world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Every winter, Fishtrap and its regional parters celebrate one great work of literature by providing events, discussions, and books to Wallowa and Union County schools, libraries, and community members. The program is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts and is supported locally by neighborhood businesses and individual donations.