On February 5, 2019 we welcomed Jamie Ford, New York Times best selling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Mr. Ford addressed our student body and other members of the school community in an informal and candid manner which was very much appreciated. He connected with students immediately as he told of the tweets he received from young people after his novel had been selected as a high school summer reading assignment.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a historical fiction set in Seattle and it moves in time between World War II and the present day. It is the story of the friendship of a young Chinese American boy, Henry, who meets Keiko, a Japanese American girl, when they are both sent by their parents to an all-white school to assimilate. It is also about what happened in Seattle after the bombing of Pearl Harbor when 120,000 Japanese nationals were rounded up and Henry loses Keiko.
The novel is a story of love, of fathers and sons, and of making decisions, sometimes out of fear. Mr. Ford described it as an exploration of identity. He revealed that he writes to make people more empathetic. He considers himself to be in "the compassion-making business."
Mr. Ford took time to disclose to students his writing journey, and his family inspirations in which his Chinese grandfather figures prominently.
Many students were keen to receive his writing advice: "If you aspire to it, give it a shot! If you can write three to five pages a day for three months, you have a book. But know that it is an applied craft. Allow yourself to play some bad notes, to fail a lot. Failure is growth."
After the inspiring school assembly, Mr. Ford generously took time to speak with alumnae and retired Ursuline faculty at a small reception. We thank him for signing copies of his book. Members of Unison, our school newspaper, enjoyed the opportunity to interview Mr. Ford at the end of his visit.
The Visiting Author Series at The Ursuline School was initiated 10 years ago by President Eileen Davidson. The first such guest speaker was James McBride in March 2009. Over the years, authors of wide acclaim, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee and Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Doerr, have addressed the student body, sharing their wisdom and encouragement.
We were absolutely delighted that Mr. Ford joined this special group of authors who have visited our school.
Photos here by Chris Pope of Pope Photography.