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ONE BOOK, ONE COMMUNITY OF MONROE COUNTY - 2018

 

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About the Book

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In the opening pages of Jamie Ford’s stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry’s world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship–and innocent love–that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.

Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel’s dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice–words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.

Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.

Summary courtesy of www.jamieford.com.

 

Read the first two chapters of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.
Take a tour of the Seattle neighborhood where Japanese lives were disrupted at the start of World War II, the subject of his moving novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Narrated by Jamie Ford.
See images of true events that inspired Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, courtesy of the National Archives.
Read about the Panama Hotel, A Bittersweet Symbol of Hope, courtesy of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.


AWARDS & RECOGNITIONS
  

2010 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature
2010 Washington State Book Award Finalist
2009 New York Times Bestseller List
2009 BN.com's (Barnes & Noble) New Reads Book Club pick
2009 IndieBound NEXT List Selection
2009 Montana Book Award
2009 Borders Original Voices Selection
2009 Director's Mention, Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction
2009 One of BookBrowse's Top 3 Favorite Books


EDITORIAL REVIEWS

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 result is a vivid picture of a confusing and critical time in American history. Recommended for all fiction collections.
Library Journal

Sentimental, heartfelt novel…. A timely debut that not only reminds readers of a shameful episode in American history, but cautions us to examine the present and take heed we don’t repeat those injustices.
Kirkus Reviews

Ford's strained debut concerns Henry Lee, a Chinese-American in Seattle who, in 1986, has just lost his wife to cancer…. The wartime persecution of Japanese immigrants is presented well, but the flatness of the narrative and Ford's reliance on numerous cultural clichés make for a disappointing read.
Publishers Weekly