The setting for this story is the long-closed Panama Hotel in Seattle, and the year is 1986. The new owner of the hotel has discovered the belongings of Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during World War II. Henry Lee, a Chinese American, remembers a young Japanese American girl from his childhood – Keiko Okabe, with whom he forged a bond of friendship and innocent love that transcended the prejudices of their Old World ancestors. 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, and for country.
Oregon's own former poet laureate Lawson Inada, who with his family was confined in internment camps in Fresno, Arkansas, and Colorado during the war, said of the novel "What a wonder to partake of the bitter and sweet from the masterful talent of Jamie Ford."
Jamie grew up in Ashland and Seattle and now lives in Great Falls, Montana. He is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who imigrated in 1865 from Kaiping, China, to San Francisco, where he adopted the Western name "William Ford," "thus confusing countless generations."
Jamie has quite the sense of humor -- something that's immediately apparent when you check out his blog. Here are some quotes from his blog:
"These days I tell people, 'My book has a career, I’m just along for the ride.' (Okay, I admit it—I stole that line from Pamela Anderson, who once said, 'My boobs have a career, I’m just along for the ride.' But the same sentiment applies)."
"Which of course begs a few questions, such as:
■When does a book tour end and mental illness begin?
■How many frequent flyer miles do you need for a ride on the Space Shuttle?
■Can you develop an addiction to airline peanuts?
■Do media escorts prefer the official title, 'Author Babysitter?'
■Have you ever walked into a venue in Cleveland and yelled, 'Hello, Detroit!'"
With any kind of luck, Jamie won't think he's in Detroit when he's here on Wednesday! He is the proud father of two boys and two girls -- "Yep, it's chaos, but the good kind of chaos."
About the writing process, Jamie has this to say: "But that ending is all-important for me. And by ending, I mean a real, unambiguous, nonmetaphorical ending. I look at storytelling as either banking or spending emotional currency with the reader. Good or bad, happy or sad, the ending is where those emotional debts are paid."
His next novel, Whispers of a Thunder God, should be hitting shelves in January 2011. He's also working on a Young Adult series and a collection of short stories.
In this short video, Jamie gives us a little tour of the real Panama Hotel, the setting for Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. We hope you can join us on Wednesday!