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Listening to the Silence

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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel - Jamie Ford Henry was a young boy growing up in Seatle's International District. Though his father was staunchly nationalistic Chinese, he insisted that Henry attend the local white private school and speak only "the American," even at home and effectively cutting off all communication between them as his father spoke only Cantonese. At school, Henry meets Keiko, a second generation Japanese American girl, and starts a friendship that he must hide from his own family. When Keiko's family, along with all the other Japanese living in Seatle during the war, is relocated, Henry begins to openly defy his parents, refusing to let go of Keiko.

I regret waiting so long to read this book. Mr. Ford is a gifted writer, his style both poetic and evocotive. He brought history alive as he described the hopes, fears, and heartbreak of a young Chinese-American man growing up in Seattle's International District during the Second World War and watching America's crimes against our Japanese-American citizens. I felt Henry's perspective was a really unique and original way to tell the story. While not Japanese, he too experienced discrimination, enough so that he had to wear a button proclaiming that he was in fact Chinese, so that those who didn't know any better, or want to know better, would not take him away with the Japanese. This is a part of our history that is little talked about, and while they were not treated nearly as poorly as the Jewish and others forced into Germany's concentration camps, can we as Americans really claim to be any better when we let our fears destroy and incarcerate an entire segement of our population? I highly recommend this book, both to those who just want to read a stirring love story and to those interested in reading about an oft-ignored black eye in American history.