Book Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet ~Jamie Ford
Engaging, delightful, sentimental, gentle – truth telling.
I so enjoy when history is wrapped up in a story that just holds your mind and your heart captive. The lessons just seem to mix together and make a complete idea and this book does just that.
I downloaded this book for our next book group read and hoped it would hold my attention for the 2 twenty hour train rides on my agenda. The book did not fail. It is also available in paperback and I could have purchased it used for very little and it was on special at TARGET.
I put it on the KINDLE http://patriciaswisdom.com/2009/04/kindle-2-and-5-things-i-love-about-it/
so that I would have plenty to read in a light weight package for travel. I found by increasing the printing one font size on the KINDLE I had no problem facing backward to the motion of the train and reading for hours.
The story location is Seattle, Washington in 1942 and in 1986. It is written about China town, Japanese Town and the Black Jazz community near Pioneer Square. This of course is a story of being an emigrant and of World War II, feelings, being American, and the internment camps.
It is told by Henry an American 12 year old, retired Boeing Engineer, who is the son of Chinese emigrants. His Father’s family has been wiped out by the Japanese invasions in China and Henry’s Father has come to the USA to start over again – alone. Wanting the best for his son, Henry is sent as a scholarship student to an all Caucasian college preparation middle school quite a walk away from his neighborhood.
The story glosses over details like ethnic cleansing but hones sharply in on the anger and unparalleled feelings of disempowerment which are residuals left within the victims and spewed out within their actions and lives.
And, sometimes immigrants are victimized all over again within their new environment.
A new “scholarshiping” person arrives at the school- Keiko, who is second generation American – Japanese. These are two cultures that “despise” each other. Henry and Keiko become lifelong friends and they teach us the lessons of the internment camps and why the Japanese complied.
The book group discussion centered around the concepts of prejudice; making an attempt at identifying with characters and why the Japanese in the camps did not fight back or “escape” when there were so few soldiers on the home front to contain them within the camps.
I truly identified with Henry and Keiko for even though I did not look so different, I was first generation American of immigrant parents. We were different. Our family friends were the other imported people who worked for the State. When my father had brought the State’s public schools into the top ten list of best schools, he was fired from his post, because the folks did not want any more of his “foreign” ideas.
My parents found it more comforting to live in large cities with more diversity and acceptance.
The awarding winning author of this book is of Chinese origins, even though his mining giant grandfather changed his family name to FORD. The author spent a number of years in the Seattle area before locating in Montana.
It is a story of family, and love, and finding one’s identity; acceptance of culture and diversity. It is a story that shares a lesson of our history as a nation. It is foundationed by the old immigrant hotel that is being restored in downtown Seattle and remains as a lesson in our history.
I would highly recommend that all middle school and high school students read this book – and of course all the history buffs who just enjoy a good read. A delightful history lesson, wrapped up in the details of caring and respect for all people.
It was found to be a “good read” by all the members of our book group.