Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

by Jamie Ford
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Last Updated on October 4, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 453

Generational Conflict and Young Love

Henry and Keiko are much like Romeo and Juliet, endeavoring to carry on a romance forbidden by their families in the context of a war with both personal and political stakes. However, the couple is at odds with more than just their families—their relationship is persecuted by the adult American establishment as a whole. While at first Henry is hostile to Keiko, his ability to accept her nationality testifies that the prejudices that dominate members of the older generation, such as his father, have not yet come to dominate him. His later acceptance of Samantha, his son’s white fiancée, demonstrates progress: we can see that one generation has learned from the shortcomings of the previous generation.

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Racism Toward and Within Asian American Communities

This novel functions as a reflection on one of America’s most regrettable acts of racism: the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II. In this book, the fact that the possessions of former internees are removed from the basement of a boarded-up hotel is important, suggesting how modern America often chooses to ignore this event in its history, to tuck it away somewhere out of sight. The discrimination both Henry and Keiko face stems not only from their peers but also from the adult society in which they live, despite the fact that Henry has in particular been encouraged by his parents to be as "American" as possible. Henry also faces racial prejudice from his father, who is vehemently opposed to his feelings for Keiko. Henry’s eventual decision to marry a Chinese American girl hints at the ultimate impossibility of his interracial relationship with Keiko in wartime America.

"The Corner of Bitter and Sweet"

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