Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet takes us between two time periods: 1986, when Henry, a Chinese-American joins others in Seattle as a hotel with belongings from people sent to Japanese internment camps is opened up, and 1942, when he first meets Keiko a young Japanese girl whose family is sent to those camps. The book is both romance and family story, and it also looks at Japanese-Chinese relations in America at the time, the internment of Japanese citizens, and the jazz scene in Seattle.
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Publisher’s description: In 1986, Henry Lee joins a crowd outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has discovered the belongings of Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during World War II. As the owner displays and unfurls a Japanese parasol, Henry, a Chinese American, remembers a young Japanese American girl from his childhood in the 1940s–Keiko Okabe, with whom he forged a bond of friendship and innocent love that transcended the prejudices of their Old World ancestors. After Keiko and her family were evacuated to the internment camps, she and Henry could only hope that their promise to each other would be kept. Now, forty years later, Henry explores the hotel’s basement for the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot even begin to measure. His search will take him on a journey to revisit the sacrifices he has made for family, for love, for country.