Each year Edmonds Community College hosts the Edmonds CC Community Read, aimed at bringing the campus and community together through literary engagement.
Ford’s first novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is 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. The book has close to 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.”
Ford lived near Seattle until he was 12 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. The belongings of Japanese families, left when they were sent to internment camps, were discovered in the hotel’s basement in 1986.
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.
“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.”
Ford will be on the Edmonds CC campus to discuss the book from 12:30 to 2 p.m. on February 27 at the Black Box Theatre in Mukilteo Hall. Parking is available to the public in Parkng Lot K. Tickets are available one hour before the presentation.