Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
There are many Americans alive today who are convinced that nothing like the internment of the Jews and other minorities in Nazi Germany could ever happen here. Those people need to crack a history book. What the US government did to Japanese Americans during World War 2 is a blot on our record. While the camps in the United States were nowhere nearly as horrific as the ones in Germany, and later Russia, they were an infringement on the civil liberties of thousands of American citizens. Some were fortunate enough to have neighbors who took care of their property and belongings while they were away, but many of them lost everything and had to begin their lives anew after their release. It would be an easy thing to write a bitter, condemnetory, angst-ridden portrait of a shameful time in our nation's history, but Mr. Ford instead gives us a frank and un-judgemental view that is, as per the title, both bitter and sweet.
There are a few anachronisms in the 1986 chapters of this story, but they are minor and I found did not detract from the solid story-telling. The expected themes are present: old world values clashing with new world, racism between whites and Asians as well as between Chinese and Japanese, and patriotism both for good and as a vehicle for greed.
No spy thriller stuff, no car chases, just a vivid picture of Seattle's "International District", as it is known today, during a very tumultuous time. It's also a nice look into the Seattle Jazz scene in the forties, too, which was an unexpected bonus.
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