Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bittersweet


So instead of reading the sequel to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I read the book Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. I read it for a book club, and it was an enjoyable read. Probably something that I wouldn't generally pick up to read, but something that I don't regret reading. It's also on a topic that I don't know much about (more on that in a minute), probably because it's something that's just grazed over in schools because it's an embarrassing part of United States history. But more on that later too. For now, I bet you're dying to know what this book is about!

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is about a Chinese man, Henry, whose wife has just recently passed away. He walks by the Panama Hotel, which was part of Japantown when he was growing up in Seattle, and finds that they have found the belongings of Japanese families that were sent to internment camps during WWII. This sends Henry on a journey, one he hadn't planned on. The story alternates between the present and the past, giving a beautiful story between Henry and a Japanese girl he falls in love with, Keiko. Their story is a sad one, giving that Henry's parents were very against the Japanese, as was the rest of the United States at the time (for obvious reasons). But it is a happy one at the same time, and one that I very much enjoyed reading.

What I find interesting is, thinking about my own education, when we get to this part of history in our history classes, Japanese internment camps are glazed over. They are mentioned, and then we move onto the next thing. I think this is because as a country, we are ashamed of how we treated the Japanese, as we very well should be. We were basically treating them like the Nazis were treated the Jewish people...though the Japanese had much better conditions. Treating people a certain way just because of what they look like or who they are isn't right, and it's something that's happened a lot in history and is still happening today. People like to turn a blind eye to it, but it is still happening. I think one of the biggest examples is the treatment of LGBTQ individuals. While these particular people have come a long way, they still have quite a ways to go. This is something that I learned when I was working on my research project last semester (it was about LGBTQ issues in the elementary classroom, and I will be continuing that research next semester with my partner Jaime Coon). It will take a long time for people to become accepting of everyone, and I'm not entirely convinced that it will ever happen. There will still be the people that will be stuck in their old beliefs, unwilling to change. Which is sad. Everyone has the right to be treated equally (especially here) and if they can't see that, that's even sadder.

Well that's a rant I hadn't expected to write...but it does apply to the book, in a way. The Japanese internment camps show how far we've come in accepting others, but the LGBTQ individuals show that we have an even farther way to go. I hope someday people will see that.

Oh, I also think that the title of this book was very fitting. I found that this book was very bittersweet...there were parts that almost made me cry (I don't cry often in books) and parts that made me very, very joyful. It's a good representation of life. In life, there are moments that will make you cry, and moments that will make you burst with joy. and those are the moments worth living for.

What will I be reading next? Water for Elephants  by Sara Gruen. This one is for another book club as well :)

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