Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
by Jaime Ford
(January 27, 2009)
In Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jaime Ford creates not just a book about the issues surrounding the Japanese living in the US. during the relocation period of WWII, but he creates an entrancing and dynamic family and ethic relationship, by the end of which your nails will be bitten down to stubs. This is a novel, based on the historical facts of treatment of Japanese immigrants (including those of Japanese ancestry) who were living in the Seattle area during that period, but it would be so bland to let it lie there. Yes, it would, that is just the historical backdrop for a tale that is so much deeper, and more personable.
Henry, the son of Chinese immigrants befriends a lovely American girl of Japanese ancestry. Although she is a second generation American, and does not speak Japanese, she is the enemy not just to other Americans, but to Henry's father as well. He grew up in China at war with Japan and holds on to incidences of mistreatment towards his own people in the hands of the Japanese against Keiko. Through years of stubbornness, dominion and silence Henry learns to find his own way of surviving, of thinking and feeling. He comes to the understanding that what is most important is that he look out for those he loves, no matter what.
The things that really allowed me to immerse myself in Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet were the deep relationships, the strong writing of Jaime Ford, my love of all thins Japanese, that I am completely interested in history, that the book is based in the Northwestern United States (where I live), and the depth of the characters. I loved Henry, Keiko, Sheldon, Marty and well, I guess actually each of the characters, even the ones with bitterness and regret. I somehow felt like I understood their actions, their mindset and although not in agreement with them I could see through the words on the page to people of flesh and bone.
It is a love story in so many ways but not just a fleeting romantic love, but a love that stands the time it takes to reach it, and that spoke to me. It is the story of first love, and the story of a love that endures and is faithful, the story of love between father and son, mother and son. It never felt gushy to me, but I am a girl so hold that lightly. I don't know...I guess you'll just have to read it, and I really hope that you will because this was a STELLAR FIVE CHICKEN BOOK! I guess that means that Jaime Ford has to do a happy chicken dance? :)
Here are some pictures of posters that were plastered on all the walls in the Japanese section of Seattle in the 1940's:
Newspapers showing headlines written during the displacement of the Japanese people:
Rounding them up and putting them on trains headed to 'inland' camps (supposedly for THEIR own protection!):
Trailer by Jaime Ford about his book, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet:
Trailer on the historical background of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet:
Jamie Ford's Website