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Jamie Ford

Jamie Ford’s first novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, has been hailed as “an impressive debut” by Lisa See and “mesmerizing and evocative” by Sara Gruen. A story about the friendship between a Chinese boy and a Japanese girl in Seattle at the time of the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, it has been chosen by numerous One Book and Freshman Year Experience programs. The book has been a hardcover and paperback bestseller and has almost 500,000 copies in print. “Ford expertly nails the sweet innocence of first love, the cruelty of racism, the blindness of patriotism, the astonishing unknowns between parents and their children, and the sadness and satisfaction at the end of a life well lived,” wrote Library Journal.

Ford is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who emigrated from Kaiping, China, to San Francisco in 1865. There he adopted the Western name “Ford,” notes the author, “thus confusing countless generations.” Jamie himself lived near Seattle until he was twelve and had what he describes as “a very American childhood, though when you’re half-Chinese you never really fit in.”

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet contains elements of his own family’s history. The germ of the idea was the ”I am Chinese” button his father had to wear during the war years, when the FBI was rounding up members of the Japanese community for internment and the Chinese feared for their safety. The Panama Hotel, which features prominently in the novel, is still standing at what was once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. A startling discovery was made in the basement of that hotel in 1986: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were sent to internment camps. Ford hopes that his book has given Chinese and Japanese families an opportunity to talk about issues and experiences that may have lain dormant for many years.

Ford is an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and of Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp, where he polished the short story that grew into Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. “I love cultural history and am always pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoy the research,” he says. “I feel like an archaeologist, dusting off the past and presenting it to the reader.”

Jamie Ford speaks at colleges, libraries, and book festivals all across the country. Random House will publish his next novel, Songs of Willow Frost, in Fall 2013.


Songs of Willow Frost

Twelve-year-old William Eng, a Chinese-American boy, has lived at Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage ever since his mother’s listless body was carried away from their small apartment five years ago. On his birthday—or rather, the day the nuns designate as his birthday—William and the other orphans are taken to the historical Moore Theatre, where William glimpses an actress on the silver screen who goes by the name of Willow Frost. Struck by her features, William is convinced that the movie star is his mother, Liu Song.

Determined to find Willow, and prove his mother is still alive, William escapes from Sacred Heart with his friend Charlotte. The pair navigates the streets of Seattle, where they must not only survive, but confront the mysteries of William’s past and his connection to the exotic film star. The story of Willow Frost, however, is far more complicated than the Hollywood fantasy William sees onscreen.

Shifting between the Great Depression and the 1920s, Songs of Willow Frost takes readers on an emotional journey of discovery. Jamie Ford’s sweeping book will resonate with anyone who has ever longed for the comforts of family and a place to call home.