Saturday, May 16, 2009

Hotel On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Bitter and Sweet are appropriate adjectives for this first novel by Jamie Ford. Henry is a first generation American whose parents don't speak English, living in Seattle during WWII. He is sent to an all-white elementary school by his parents to learn English but his father forces him to wear a button that reads, "I am Chinese" in order to distinguish him from the Japanese Americans in the city. He becomes friends with the only other non-white in the school, a Japanese American girl named Keiko. Her family ends up being sent to Idaho to live in an internment camp along with thousands of others. "Will he ever see her again?" is the question that is constantly on his mind as he fights off the prejudice of his family.
I loved the characters in this story even if Henry seems way too mature for 12. It is a sweet love story as well as the story of generational differences and difficult family relationships. It also gave us a little of an idea of what it must have felt like to be Japanese American during the war. There were a few anachronisms in the story but they aren't jarring enough to affect it. There was no profanity or sex and just a little violence. It would be a good book to share with younger teens and could start a discussion on prejudice. A reading guide is found at
Rated PG for the little bit of violence and adult situations. Recommended!

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