Jamie Ford, who wrote this year’s Reading in Common book Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, will give a talk for the Gustavus community next week. Ford will be on campus Tuesday, Sept. 14 for a speech in Alumni Hall at 7:00 p.m. and a question and answer session and book signing to follow.
Ford is a short-story writer who grew up in Seattle’s Chinatown, near where the novel takes place. He is the great grandson of a Chinese pioneer, who emigrated to the U.S. in 1865.
The talk will focus on his bestselling novel, which flashes back to WWII and Asian Americans’ struggle with the U.S.’s Japanese internment camps.
In a relatively new addition to the Reading in Common program, each Greeter Group has the chance to submit a question for the author. “This way, [Ford] can talk about what students really want to know,” Director of Student Activities Megan Ruble said.
Many first-year students liked the novel on which the talk will be based. “In school we didn’t hear much about [Japanese internment]. We hear about everything else but we don’t hear much about what we did on our own land,” First-year Student Amy Prasad said.
Besides dealing with this painful subject, the novel also has several themes that apply to all people and time periods. “The themes in the book are universal: family, stereotypes and coming of age. The story really resonated with the selection committee,” Ruble said.
These themes are especially appropriate for the first-year students who are away from home for the first time. “It’s a book about growing up… [so] it’s relevant to moving away from home and learning to be yourself while making friends along the way,” First-year student Madeline Schmitz said.
The Reading in Common program helps first-years connect with each other through discussions with a faculty member. “The goals of the program are to facilitate a shared academic experience and set an intellectual tone for the academic year. The 600 or more incoming first-year students have this reading experience in common, so they can talk with anyone in their class about the book,” Ruble said.
The program has a few recent additions, including artwork on display that reflects the subject of the novel and an appearance for the greater Gustavus community.
“This is the second year that we have had artwork on display in the Campus Center that connects to the Reading in Common book. This year, it is art by Roger Shimomura that deals with the WWII Japanese internment camps,” Ruble said.
Ford will also make an appearance for alumni and friends of the college on Monday, Sept. 13 at 7:00 p.m. at Open Books in Minneapolis. The appearance, sponsored by the Alumni Association and the Gustavus Library Associates, is a way to expand the Reading in Common program to include the greater community.
Anyone, even upperclassmen who may not have read the novel, could find Ford’s speech interesting and informative. “I thought [the novel] was eye-opening,” Prasad said.