Summary of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a story that explores the experiences of Chinese and Japanese Americans during World War II with both insight and compassion. The story begins in 1986 with Henry, an elderly Chinese-American man walking past the Panama hotel in Seattle, which has been boarded up since the war. Memorabilia within the basement of the hotel take Henry back to 1942 and his fifth grade true love, a beautiful Japanese girl named Keiko. Henry and Keiko are the only Asians in their all white elementary school, to which they are “scholarshipping” and do not feel a sense of belonging or acceptance within the dominant culture. Because Henry’s nationalistic father has a hatred for Japan, Henry keeps their friendship and his love a secret until all contact is lost when Keiko’s family is sent to an internment camp. Tension between Henrys father’s traditional Chinese values and Henry’s American perspective is a key theme when forty years after meeting Keiko, Henry, now a widow sits in the basement of the condemned hotel, holding long lost items which take him back to his childhood memories, thoughts and feelings. Henry recalls his early days of being tormented by his peers, while wearing an “I am Chinese” button daily, as his father did not want anyone mistaken about Henry’s nationality. He also recalls risks taken to befriend Keiko, and their combined love for Jazz music, as well as times spent before the inevitable evacuation of her family and of a love lost. While reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, we learn that Henry shares his life story with his own son, in hopes of preventing the dysfunctional relationship that he had experienced many years ago with his own father. This story teaches us to examine the present and think twice, so that we do not repeat injustices within our own families. Feelings Experienced from the Reading
There were multiple emotions that were provoked in reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Disheartenment and anger were feelings provoked when Henry’s father enrolled his son into an all-white school. Henry was called derogatory names, pushed around and forced to do “chores” at school. Henry’s father gave him a pin that said, “I am Chinese” and told Henry he needed to wear it constantly. Not only were kids at Henry’s school making fun of him for wearing the pin but other Chinese kids would tease him on his way to school. Henry’s father wanted Henry to be “Americanized” however, the pin labeling him Chinese and living in a household where he was the only one who spoke English triggered a combination of anger and Disheartenmen. There was realization of what Henry’s father was attempting to do but the anger was triggered from putting his son in a situation that he was bullied on a daily bases instead of sending him to a different school. When Keiko enrolled in the school Henry attended the readers felt relief since Henry was able to relate with Keiko and develop a friendship with her. Henry was no longer the only non-Caucasian student at the school. This allowed Henry to bond with another student his age and relate to someone else that was dealing with similar situations. However, Henry and Keiko were assigned to serve in the cafeteria where it appeared that only kids who were in trouble were sent. The readers were upset that even the teachers and school staff were singling Henry and Keiko out.
One of the most heart wrenching scenarios was when the Japanese American families were forced to relocate to internment camps. Feelings of empathy and sadness for their displacement were expressed by these readers for the families. The families had less than two days to gather only things they could carry and leave their homes. Henry promised Keiko he would keep her family’s belongings they were not able to take with them...