Read Julie Otsuka’s “The Swimmers” With Us

Julie Otsuka's "The Swimmers"

In May of 2005, author Julie Otsuka visited Seattle as part of Seattle Reads, the Library’s citywide book group that started in 1998.

Otsuka’s acclaimed debut novel, “When the Emperor Was Divine” had been chosen as the Seattle Reads selection that year. The book described in “incantatory, unsentimental prose” (The New Yorker) the experience of a unnamed Japanese family forced from their home in Berkeley to an incarceration camp during World War II.

As reported in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (log into NewsBank with your Library card to read the full text) one of the most memorable moments in the author’s Seattle Reads appearances occurred during a program at the Beacon Hill Branch, when Tom Ikeda, founder of Densho and event moderator, “took note of the number of Japanese Americans in the crowd and asked any former internees to please stand.”

Hesitantly, they rose to their feet, former internees near the front of the crowd, but also sprinkled throughout, some in groups, others in pairs, a few by themselves, until there were 30 people standing, while many others in the audience felt their hearts rising into their throats, tears welling in their eyes. Then the rest of the audience started to applaud.

‘That is a moment that I will really remember,’ Otsuka said Thursday. “That brought tears to all of our eyes; it was so moving. It was probably the first time that many of these people had had their internment and absence ever acknowledged by others in the community.”

Eighteen years later, Otsuka is returning to Seattle, and to Seattle Reads, which turns 25 this year. The Library has chosen Julie Otsuka’s third novel “The Swimmers” as the Seattle Reads selection for 2023. She will visit Seattle on Friday, May 19, and Saturday, May 20. 

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Library calendar improvements launched today

Today, we launched several improvements to our event calendar on!

Visit to see all of the Library’s upcoming author events, learning opportunities, Tax Help sessions, business workshops, musical concerts and more.

We hope you will enjoy the following upgrades:

  • An upgraded look and feel for a better patron experience, including an optimized mobile experience
  • More robust support for non-English languages, including fully translated information for all non-English language events and bilingual events
  • More clearly labeled information about event accessibility
  • Simpler filters to browse events by program type, intended audience, location and language.

You can learn more about using our online calendar on our website. If you have any questions or run into issues with the upgraded calendar, let us know through our Ask Us service.

Nightstand Reads with Bonnie Garmus, author of Lessons in Chemistry

Lessons in Chemistry

Bonnie Garmus, author of Lessons in Chemistry, shares some books she’s loving. Garmus will be appearing in conversation with Nancy Pearl at the Central Library at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23.

Set in 1960s California, Bonnie Garmus’ blockbuster debut novel follows Elizabeth Zott, a scientist whose career is shaped by the idea that a woman’s place is in the home, and unexpectedly finds herself in a starring role hosting America’s most beloved TV cooking show.

I just finished reading Kate Zernike’s excellent (and infuriating!) The Exceptions: Nancy Hopkins, MIT, and the Fight for Women in Science. It follows the career of Nancy Hopkins, a brilliant scientist and cancer researcher who endured decades of sexism before joining with other women at MIT to make the bias against women both seen and heard.

Shortlisted for the Booker and a novel that moved me like no other, Claire Keegan’s Small Things Like These.

I really enjoyed Maame by Jessica George, a funny and sad tale of youth, racism, and family expectation.

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Introducing Higo! New Central Exhibition

Higo 10 Cents Store, owned by the Murakami family and a social hub in Seattle’s Japantown, has a long and fascinating community and family history. Meet Me at Higo welcomes younger generations to connect with and explore what it means to be Japanese American. Today, Higo 10 Cents Store (or Higo Variety Store) is KOBO at Higo and is still located at 604 South Jackson in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District.

The growing Murakami family visits Seattle’s Volunteer Park, 1923. Murakami Family Collection, Wing Luke Museum
The growing Murakami family visits Seattle’s Volunteer Park, 1923. Murakami Family Collection, Wing Luke Museum

From February 1st through March 26th, the Central Library Gallery is hosting Meet Me at Higo, a traveling exhibition by the Wing Luke Museum. Visitors will immerse themselves in archival photographs, journals and letters from the Murakami family—the original proprietors—as well as goods such as ceramics, toys, and textiles sold there through the 20th century until it closed its doors in the early 2000s when Masa, the last surviving member of the Murakami family, retired.

Matsuyo Murakami stands in the doorway of the store on South Weller Street, circa 1912. Murakami Family Collection, Wing Luke Museum
Matsuyo Murakami stands in the doorway of the store on South Weller Street, circa 1912. Murakami Family Collection, Wing Luke Museum

Founded before 1910 (dates are variously given as 1907 and 1909 depending on the source), Higo 10 Cents Store, which was later renamed Higo Variety Store, became a center for Japanese Americans who came to the Pacific Northwest to as migrant works in the railroad, agriculture, and fishing industries. The Japanese population grew into a neighborhood called Nihonmachi (Japantown or J-Town), a hub of culture and community located in the International District-Chinatown, less than a mile from the Central Library. At Nihonmachi’s heart was Higo, a central point of connection for the community, providing imported and local goods that local residents relied on to make their homes feel familiar and comfortable as well as a place for people to meet and connect. Continue reading “Introducing Higo! New Central Exhibition”

Poetry, Pictures, Architecture and Orcas: January 2023 Events and Author Readings

Picture of leaves in snow by Rodion Kutsaiev with Unsplash
Courtesy Rodion Kutsaiev with Unsplash

Want something to look forward to after the holidays? The Seattle Public Library’s author programs and community events in January 2023 include a Lunar New Year celebration, the Seattle Times’ annual Pictures of the Year event, and author events highlighting Lynda Mapes’ award-winning book about orcas and a picture book about Pacific Science Center architect Minoru Yamasaki.

Many of these events require registration. Find information and registration through the event links below or at All Library events are free and open to the public.

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