Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Page 27: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford takes us back in time to 1940s wartime Seattle and explores the relationship between Asian Americans and the rest of Seattle through the relationship between Henry, who is Chinese, and Keiko who is Japanese.  It is primarily a story about the internment of Japanese Americans in relocation camps, but also the love story of Henry and Keiko, Henry's strained relationship with his father, and Henry's love of jazz fostered by his friendship with Sheldon who plays jazz solo on the street and with a group when he can get the gigs.

This is truly a story that is both bitter and sweet as it moves back and forth between Seattle in the 1980s and 1940s.  Anyone who does not know about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II has either been living in a cave or attended a school whose books are censored by the Texas School Board.

This book was recommended to me by a very good friend for whom the internment of Japanese Americans was a reality for his family.  In spite of the injustice done to loyal Japanese Americans as a result of the hysteria that gripped our country at the time, I have never heard him express any bitterness or ill will toward his country.  I find this truly amazing and magnanimous.

As usual, here are some reviews to encourage you to read this book.

"Mesmerizing and evocative, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a tale of conflicted loyalties, devotion, as well as a vibrant portrait of Seattle's Nihonmachi district in its heyday."
-- Sara Gruen, 
New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants 

“A tender and satisfying novel set in a time and a place lost forever, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet gives us a glimpse of the damage that is caused by war--not the sweeping damage of the battlefield, but the cold, cruel damage to the hearts and humanity of individual people. Especially relevant in today's world, this is a beautifully written book that will make you think. And, more importantly, it will make you feel." 
--Garth Stein, New York Times bestselling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

“Jamie Ford's first novel explores the age-old conflicts between father and son, the beauty and sadness of what happened to Japanese Americans in the Seattle area during World War II, and the depths and longing of deep-heart love. An impressive, bitter, and sweet debut.”
Lisa See, bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan 

"Fifth-grade scholarship students and best friends Henry and Keiko are the only Asians in their Seattle elementary school in 1942. Henry is Chinese, Keiko is Japanese, and Pearl Harbor has made all Asians-even those who are American born-targets for abuse. Because Henry's nationalistic father has a deep-seated hatred for Japan, Henry keeps his friendship with and eventual love for Keiko a secret. When Keiko's family is sent to an internment camp in Idaho, Henry vows to wait for her. Forty years later, Henry comes upon an old hotel where the belongings of dozens of displaced Japanese families have turned up in the basement, and his love for Keiko is reborn. In his first novel, award-winning short-story writer Ford expertly nails the sweet innocence of first love, the cruelty of racism, the blindness of patriotism, the astonishing unknowns between parents and their children, and the sadness and satisfaction at the end of a life well lived. The result is a vivid picture of a confusing and critical time in American history. Recommended for all fiction collections." - Library Journal

Please read this book.  It is a real gem.

Next Book Page: Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes

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