Another book review blog?!?

Yes because people ask "Have you read anything good lately?" And I have. From a class ...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - Historical fiction

Author:                Jamie Ford
Publication Date:  2009, debut novel      
Number of Pages: 285 (hardcover)
Part of a Series:    No
Subject Heading(s):
  • Chinese Americans
  • Japanese Americans
  • WWII
  • Japanese internment
  • Racism
  • Seattle
  • historical fiction
  • family
  • friendship
  • love story
  • jazz
  • The forties (20th century)
  • father and son
  • memories,
  • widowers
Geographical Setting:Seattle, WA
Time Period: 1942-1945 and 1986
Main Character(s): 
Henry Lee-a smart, independent, Chinese American boy who readers also encounter as a man with many sweet yet painful memories
Keiko Okabe-an artistic, confident Japanese American girl whose family is taken away to internment camps in the U.S. during WWII
Plot Summary:        Henry Lee becomes a teenager during WWII and is considered an outsider by many simply because he is Asian. To make the situation worse, his father commands that Henry wear a pin that says, “I am Chinese” and attend an all white school where racism is rampant. But, when a Japanese American girl, Keiko Okabe, is also sent to the white school, he quickly makes friends with her and the two bond through their Asian heritage and because they are both considered outsiders. However, Keiko and her family, along with thousands of other Japanese Americans, are forced to move into a Japanese internment camp to ensure they don’t take part in any espionage against America. Henry and Keiko vow to wait for each other as their relationship has become more than just friends. However, things don’t go quite as planned due to Henry’s father’s hatred toward all things Japanese and they both move on. 40 years later, after some of Keiko’s old belongings are found in a Japanese hotel, Henry’s son and future daughter-in-law encourage him to reunite and regain the relationship they once had.
Frame/Setting: 2/3 of the book is set in WWII in the Asian district of Seattle, WA with real events and real places mentioned  
Storyline: Seattle during WWII, character and historical events are interwoven successfully, episodic and alternates between WWII time period and the 1980s, chapter titles include dates 
Style/Language: lots of conversation about the war, also some Chinese and Japanese phrases  
Pacing: leisurely  
Characterization: gets more intimate and matures as you read about Henry becoming a teenager and then a man and it feels as if you have known him for a long time  
Tone: like the title states, some bitterness mixed with some sweetness

Brief quote:           “Loyalty. We’re still loyal to the United States of America. Why? Because we too are Americans. We don’t agree, but we will show our loyalty by our obedience. Do you understand, Henry?
                             All Henry could do was sign and nod. He knew that concept all too well. Painfully well. Obedience as a sign of loyalty, as an expression of honor, even as an act of love, was a well-worn theme in his household.” (229)

Prizes or Awards:   Asian Pacific American Award for Literature: Adult Fiction (2009) given by the Asian/American Librarians Association; Montana Book Award (2009) given by Friends of the Missoula Public Library to recognize noteworthy literature by an author from Montana, books about Montana, or themes important to the state of Montana

Similar Works:      
Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas- Japanese Americans, mass internment, WWII, historical fiction, teenagers (NoveList) 
The Whirlwind by Carol Matas- Seattle, Japanese Americans, mass internment, teenage boys, prejudice, historical fiction, adult books for teens (NoveList)

Reviewer’s Name:   Taryn Kingery
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Adapted from Saricks, Joyce G. and Nancy Brown. Readers= Advisory Service in the Public Library 2nd.  Chicago: ALA, 1997.

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