I think I have mentioned that I write a column monthly for a little local paper. So since this blog is supposed to be about my books and crafting, I thought I should throw in some book stuff. This was a book that I really enjoyed, so will share my review here.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
by Jamie Ford
Now this is a book well worth reading and one of those keepers that you want to share with your family and friends. I do enjoy a good historical novel that teaches me something that I didn't know about our history as Americans or just citizens of the world.
This book is a debut novel by Jamie Ford. I hope he continues to write. The main character is a Chinese gentleman named Henry Lee. He is present when the Panama Hotel in Seattle Wa. is opened after being boarded up many years. He sees a Japanese parasol that he recognizes. This sends the reader back and forth from when Henry was 12 years old in 1942 to the present of 1986.
When he was 12 his father enrolled him in white school under a “scholarship” which I felt was more like a work program, so he could get his education and work in the kitchen. He was bullied by white boys but would not tell his father as he was supposed to be getting an “American” education, even though he was born in America.
He finds a friend in a Japanese girl named Keiko and this was a forbidden subject at home as China was at war with the Japanese at this time. (As you are probably know, when Japan attached Pearl Harbor the US the Japanese Americans, many second generation were rounded up and interred in camps.) Through the black outs, raids, and long standing prejudices of their old worlds, a sweet innocent love develops. When Keiko seems lost to him forever, Henry grows up, the war ends, and he marries and has a son. Henry has many regrets and struggles with his relationship with his son, not wanting to be like his own father. As the story went back to his childhood memories you could feel how he struggled to be his own person and yet honor his own Chinese roots. Of course you have to read the book to see how it ends, I don't want to spoil that.
The author is a great grandson of a Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who emigrated from China in 1865, where he took the western name Ford. Jamie Ford is half Chinese and grew up near Chinatown in Seattle. There really was a Chinatown and Japanese town in Seattle and at hotel named the Panama Hotel. And of course there really was a war and the interment of thousands of Japanese people, who lost all they had by the time the war ended.
I always like to find where the title comes from and you will find it in this terrific book. From the back cover: “This is a beautifully written book that will make you think. And, more important, it will make you feel.”