Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
|Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet|
Cover of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
|Cover artist||Kathleen DiGrado|
Published in English
|1 February 2009|
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is historical fiction. It is a bestselling novel (2009) by Jamie Ford about the love and friendship between Henry Lee, a Chinese boy, and Keiko Okabe, a Japanese girl, during the Japanese internment in World War II.
1940s. They both attend an (otherwise) white prep school as "scholarship students" in Seattle. Henry's father is adamantly anti-Japanese, as is the increasingly hostile general population of Seattle following the Attack on Pearl Harbor. In spite of this, Henry and Keiko begin an intense friendship until Keiko is taken to an internment camp with her family.
Henry finds her, first at local Camp Harmony. After failing to make his feelings known at Camp Harmony, he follows her with his friend, a local Jazz musician named Sheldon, to Minidoka, Idaho. Upon finding her there, he promises to wait for her. They decide to write each other letters until the war is over, and Henry returns to Seattle.
He religiously mails Keiko letters, but receives very few in return. His father is intent on sending him to China, now that the Japanese are being pushed back, to finish his education traditionally. Henry arrives home one day to find a ticket to China in his name. He agrees to go on the condition that his father (as part of an association of elders) saves the Panama Hotel from being sold. The Panama Hotel is where Keiko's family stored the larger part of their belongings when they were shipped to the internment camps. Many families stored their possessions in the basement of the Hotel.
He then meets the woman he ended up marrying, Ethel, who worked at the post office and became casual friends with him. He did end up meeting Keiko again, though their postal contact was severed by Henry's father, who was stopping the letters in transit. With the help of Henry's son he finds Keiko in New York after she sent a package to Sheldon's funeral. He goes to see her and they have casual conversation, until Keiko begins a Japanese compliment that Henry had spoken to her in during their childhood, which Henry finishes.
2010 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature
2010 Washington State Book Award Finalist
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
The Kirkus Review hailed the novel as "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." Kevin Clouther of Booklist mentions that "Although Ford does not have anything especially novel to say about a familiar subject (the interplay between race and family), he writes earnestly and cares for his characters, who consistently defy stereotype."
- 2010 "Asian/Pacific American Award For Literature Winners selected", American Library Association, February 3, 2010, accessed July 11, 2011.
- "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet", Kirkus Review, October 15, 2008, accessed July 11, 2011.
- "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet", Booklist, November 15, 2008, accessed July 11, 2011.
- "HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET". Kirkus Reviews 76 (20): 1086. 2008-10-15. ISSN 0042-6598.
- "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet". Publishers Weekly 255 (37): 40. 2008-09-15. ISSN 0000-0019.
- Clouther, Kevin (2008-11-15). "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet". Booklist 105 (6): 27. ISSN 0006-7385.
- Burkhardt, Joanna M. (10/1/2008). "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet". Library Journal 133 (16): 56. ISSN 0363-0277.