book report [Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet]


My Mama's book club read this awhile back and she passed it along to me.  I finally picked it up off the bedside table and it was pretty good.  It is the story of Henry, a Chinese American boy growing up in Seattle in the midst of World War II.  Henry makes friends with Keiko, a Japanese American girl, because they are the only non-white kids at their school.  Keiko and her family are taken away to one of the Japanese internment camps.  The story flips back and forth between the 1940's and 1986, when a big stash of items belonging to Seattle's Japanese families is found in the basement of the old Panama Hotel.  Families being 'evacuated' could only bring a limited amount of stuff, so the rest of their belongings might have been burned, looted, or stashed.  The book's themes are found & lost love, tradition, prejudice, family, and sacrifice. Even though parts of this book are sad and, frankly, embarassing, I couldn't put the book down and really enjoyed it. 

Similar to The Help, this is a story with a basis in a political/social could stick with the story and/or you could think about the issue.  With this book I was thinking more about the issue.  I didn't really know that much about the internment of Japanese Americans until I moved to San Francisco. There was an internment camp in Utah (Topaz), but I never went to see it and no one ever talked about it much.  Turns out one of my favorite artists, Chiura Obata, spent a year there. On our roadtrip a few weeks ago we passed by Tule Lake, where 'high risk' people were sent. It's just amazing how different (?) things are now...what prejudice driven act will we look back on in 70 years with disbelief? building a wall on the border of Mexico? banning same-sex marriage?

[FYI, I link to Green Apple Books in San Francisco and/or Powell's in Portland because they are my favorite bookstores...local, independent, and awesome. They have no idea who I am, nor do they  give me anything for linking to them. Where you buy your books is your business. I also advocate the public library [and the library didn't waive any fines or give me anything to say that]