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.... [continues]
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