Smoky Mountain Family Historian

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Different Point of View

Most of the time when I have read fictional books about the Japanese-American internment experience during World War II, it has been from the point of view of one of those interned. Jamie Ford offers us a different perspective in Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. The hotel is the Panama Hotel in Seattle, Washington where restorers discover belongings left behind by some of the Japanese-Americans who were evacuated. Henry Lee, a Chinese-American, sees someone bringing out a parasol that he is certain belonged to Keiko Okabe, his very special Japanese friend from school. Back in 1942 he and Keiko had been very special friends even though his father, a Chinese businessman, had a very strong dislike for the Japanese. Henry goes into the hotel where he locates, with the help of his son, Keiko's sketchbook and a record that had meant a lot to Keiko and himself. This is Henry and Keiko's story, told from Henry's perspective. It shows the reader that the Japanese were not the only ones affected by this dark chapter in American history. After a stay at a temporary camp, Keiko's family was relocated to Minidoka in Idaho. Although this book was fictitious, the Minidoka War Relocation Center was a real place. The site is now part of the National Park System. Chapter 9 of Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites tells about Minidoka in great detail. Although it is named Minidoka, it was actually nearer Jerome. Friends of Minidoka also has some interesting historical information on this facility. Their further reading page lists several resources that would be useful for persons researching ancestors who were relocated to Minidoka. I located a map on this site of war relocation facilities. I know that I have read books set in Manzanar in California and Topaz in Utah. I think the thing that surprised me most is that two were located in Arkansas. This might be an interesting topic to pursue when I'm in Little Rock for FGS if I have time.

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  • Hi Lori,

    Glad you enjoyed the book. I did tons of research, but I'm still learning new things. I spent the weekend attending this year's Minidoka Pilgrimage and learned so much more...

    By Blogger Jamie Ford, at 8:32 PM  

  • In April, I had the opportunity to stop at the National Park Service's visitor center for the Hagerman Fossil Beds in Hagerman, Idaho. In a corner room of the visitor center they house a photo gallery of the Minidoka Internment camp. Fascinating images of the camp life and their housing. It was amazing to see how self-sustaining Minidoka was and the volume of produce that was shipped out of there during the war. I understand this is a temporary location for these photos until a permanent visitor center can be built on or near the former camp.

    By Blogger Tracy, at 3:58 PM  

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