The Woman

Otsuka’s opening scene depicts her first narrator’s response to the trauma of seeing the evacuation, or “exclusion” notice posted in April 1942, two months after President Roosevelt had signed Executive Order 9066. The announcement directs the “removal of persons of Japanese ancestry” from the general populace, an order the woman immediately, quietly and without question, obeys. She sorts through her home, moving quickly and decisively, trying to make practical decisions while packing up her family’s material life and preparing to evacuate. Her painful decisions in the novel’s first few hours are some of the most arresting of the story: she finds new homes for or dispatches pets, buries silver, disposes of peripheral detritus of her American life while preparing for an uncertain future. “The woman, who did not always follow the rules, followed the rules.” ("When the Emperor Was Divine, p. 9) Like so many Japanese Americans, she steels herself for a long estrangement from her life.