Award winning author Jamie Ford was full of humor and life advice when he spoke to a One Book One Community audience March 22.
The “Meet the Author” night gave readers a chance to get to know a world renowned author.
Ford discussed his book, “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” which was chosen for this year’s One Book One Community program.
The program focuses on creating a community-wide reading culture.
“Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” is set during the Second World War and focuses on the Chinese and Japanese neighborhoods of Seattle, Wash.
The main character, Henry Lee, is a Chinese-American teenager who happens to fall in love with a Japanese girl, Keiko.
Henry’s parents are against anything that has to do with the Japanese, since they are enemies to the U.S and Chinese during the war.
The story details Henry’s challenges with racism and prejudice toward himself, his ethnicity, and the Japanese.
Ford’s great-grandfather had emigrated to the U.S from China in 1865. Ford’s father grew up as a second generation American in Seattle, and was the
influence for his book.
“My dad was Chinese,” Ford said. “When he was 13, he was given one of those ‘I am Chinese’ buttons to wear as he would walk to school. The white kids
would throw stuff, call him ‘Jap,’ and he would get in fist fights.
“When my dad passed away, I started to get curious about stories from his childhood. I went to a workshop in Virginia in 2006 and I wrote a short story
about the characters of Henry and Keiko, and everyone really liked it. That was my encouragement.”
Ford went home after that convention and got to work. His home contained an office that served as his workshop.
“I have an office where I would write,” Ford said. “And I like college football. I actually didn’t watch a single game that year. I just unplugged the TV and was
like, ‘I’m gonna write’.”
The story is fiction, but a good portion of it does line up with actual events. Naval ships that are mentioned in the book were real and the internment camps
were depicted as accurately as possible.
Ford took the time to look through historical records to make sure that all his information lined up correctly.
“If I had known so many people would be reading this book, I would have spent more time on it,” Ford said. “I did a bunch of research. Six months of
research and then the first draft was done in three months. It was really quick. I had never written anything that quick. Then again, I didn’t watch TV, I hated
my day job. I was all in on this book and it just worked out.”
He never would have expected a book that was written that fast would become so popular.
“Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” has been translated into 34 different languages and Ford has travelled all over the world to speak about the book.
“Last year, I did a 38-city book tour for two-and-a-half months,” Ford said. “It was too much. It broke my brain. It was wonderful to have that opportunity, but it
was too much.
“When you spend nine straight days in a row in a different town every night and a different hotel room and you wake up and don’t know where you’re at. The
events with people are great, but the repetition of just random hotel rooms and food and planes wears on you.”
Ford loves being an author, but everybody needs a getaway. His getaway happens to be the vertical slopes of the outdoors surrounding his home with his
family and friends.
“I live in Montana, so I love to climb,” Ford said. “Most of my summers are spent trying to figure out how to get on top of this mountain or that mountain. It’s
kind of addicting. Some mountains I climb with my kids, and those are pretty easy. Still, it’s really cool to show someone something that they’ve never seen
before. Even into the shorter seasons we do stuff. I like to ski.”
Literary fame doesn’t always seem as prominent when compared to an actor or musician, but “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” is possibly getting
made into a musical. One little piece of advice that Ford received one night was what made this all possible.
“I went out to dinner one night with a guy that ran a workshop and I was basically whining about how a previous book I was working on wasn’t working,” Ford
said. “He basically said ‘who cares.’ Write what you want. Write the story that you want to write. Don’t worry about who’s there to read it.”
Upcoming One Book, One Community events include:
March 28 — American Japanese Internment Camps, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Bedford Branch Library.
The Bedford Branch Library Just the Facts Book Club will discuss internment camps.
March 28 — Panel discussion: Balancing Act: Security vs. Civil Rights, 7-8:30 p.m., La-Z-Boy Center, MCCC.
A panel of experts will discuss how the country is doing in balancing the two issues. The Agora student newspaper is sponsoring the event.
March 29 — Brown bag discussion: “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” 12:30-1:30 p.m., La-Z-Boy Center, MCCC.
April 4 — Film series: “Vincent Who?,” 7 p.m., Room L-140, Life Sciences Building, MCCC.
April 5 — Book discussion: “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” 10:30 a.m.-noon, Bedford Branch Library.
Hosted by the Bedford Branch Library A.M. Book Club.
April 6 — Asian Edibles buffet, 5 p.m., dining room, Audrey M. Warrick Student Services/Administration Building, MCCC.
The second year culinary skills and management program students at MCCC, along with Chef Kevin Thomas and Chef Vicki LaValle, will prepare an Asian buffet.
Reservations are required. Tickets are $20 and are available at the MCCC Cashier’s Office in the administration building or by calling 384-4272.
Included are non-alcoholic drinks, salads, appetizers, charcuterie (pate, sausages and terrines), entrees, side dishes, breads and a pastry display.
April 6 — Film series: “Vincent Who?,” 6:30 p.m., Room A-173c/d, Administration Building, MCCC.