Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Some people can’t get enough of the English monarchy. For some people, young adult sci-fi is an addiction. Others get weak in the knees for true crime, go figure. I myself am a sucker for a Japanese reference, from Geisha’s to the American internment camps, I can’t get enough. So picking, The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was an easy choice for me.

The book kicks off at the Panama Hotel, an actual Seattle landmark, (just a scant 130 miles, give or take, north of where we live), in 1986. Here between Seattle’s Japantown and Chinatown, the discovery of the belongings of thirty-seven japanese families, presumably sent to interment camps is uncovered, and that sets of the story of Henry Lee. From there the book takes off, alternating between the story of Henry in the 1940’s and the story of Henry in the 1980’s. Central to the book is the relationship between Chinese-American Henry and Japanese-American Keiko, and the challenges they faced due to heightened racial tensions brought on by the war. This book was an interesting look at a familiar subject. Easy to read and sentimental, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you decide to give it a go.

If you read this book and live in the vicinity, a field trip is always fun. Not only is the Panama Hotel a real location, the belongings of thirty-seven Japanese families do actually live there. Order a pot of tea, and peek through the glass in the floor to the basement where the belongings were found.
Caisse, Myself and Amber inside the Panama Hotel

If you host this book, I say take it easy on yourself, brew up a pot of tea and order up take out from your favorite Chinese restaurant. Sometimes it’s nice to whip up the fancy meal and sometimes it’s nice to take the help you can. Cue up a Jazz inspired playlist and enjoy. (Once you've read the book you'll understand why Jazz) Here’s the list I had at my book club, I wasn’t a stickler for keeping it to a certain era, I just wanted to try to set a mood.

1. Beyond The Sea - Will Young
2. Summertime - Ella Fiztgerald & Louis Armstrong
3. God Bless the Child - Eva Cassidy
4. My Funny Valentine - Matt Giraud (An American Idol performance)
5. The Way You Look Tonight - Kris Allen (Another American Idol performance, must have been a "jazz" theme night)
6. Let's Call the Whole Thing Off - Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong
7. Fever - Peggy Lee
8. A Wink and a Smile - Harry Connick, Jr
9. What a Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong
10. All At Sea - Jamie Cullum
11. Baby, It's Cold Outside - Rod Stewart Featuring Dolly Parton
12 Let's Call the Whole Thing Off - Harry Connick, Jr
13. Fever - Michael Buble
14. I've Got a Crush on You - Linda Ronstadt
Do you have a go-to book type? What's your literary weakness? Ever taken a book based field trip?


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