Jamie Ford

David Guterson and his bestselling Snow Falling on Cedars aren’t the last word on our illegal World War II internment of Japanese-Americans. There are different sides to the story, even Chinese-American sides. Debut novelist Jamie Ford—his great-grandfather changed the family surname from Chung—grew up here in the latter community, though he now resides in Montana. His debut novel, Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Ballantine, $24), sprang from the “I am Chinese” button his father wore as a Seattle boy during the ’40s—to avoid being confused with despised Japanese-Americans. Hotel, which includes real history from that recently renovated building, is part wartime forbidden-puppy-love story, part reconsideration of that era four decades later. “At my grandparents’ level, there was this abstract kinship with the Japanese-Americans and the Filipinos, because they were all second-class citizens,” says Ford by phone of the war years. “But then they didn’t mix. It was a separate society. There was probably a little bit of enmity. Japan had invaded China. If a Chinese woman would marry a Japanese guy, her parents wouldn’t go to the wedding.” Today, the inter-ethnic tensions are largely gone, Ford believes, though Chinatown—or just call it the ID—was diminished in the ’60s when “I-5 tore up that area.” Ford regularly visits the ID when seeing his family here, and he hopes—especially after the notorious 1983 Wah Mee Massacre—that the neighborhood is coming back. “Chinatown is like this scar tissue on the Emerald City. For whatever reason, no one’s ever wanted to revitalize Chinatown.” (Note: Wed. event at Third Place Books.) BRIAN MILLER

Tue., Feb. 10, 7 p.m.; Wed., Feb. 11, 7 p.m., 2009

 
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