As part of the sixth annual Edmonds Community College Community Read, three EdCC students — Veaunna Felton, Spencer Lestiadi, and Nicole Ryan — were awarded scholarships for reading Jamie Ford’s novel “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” and submitting a project inspired by it.
The $1,300 scholarships, which cover spring quarter tuition (15 credits), were funded by the Edmonds Community College Foundation. The students met Ford when he spoke Feb. 27 at Edmonds CC’s Black Box Theatre.
“Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” is a fictional account of a Chinese boy and a Japanese girl from Seattle who forge a relationship at an internment camp in Puyallup during World War II, but become separated after the war’s end.
For her project, Felton created typography that conveyed Ford’s essential characters through abstract. Added to the typography are the words “I Am American” and words delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his “I Have a Dream” speech. Felton believes that these words convey hope to those experiencing injustice and inequality, which illustrates the discrimination against book characters Keiko (who is Japanese), Henry (who is Chinese), and Sheldon (who is African-American).
“The typographic picture symbolizes unity among all ethnicities,” said Felton, “drawn from the thousands of words both Dr. King and Jamie Ford said and wrote.” Felton is attending Edmonds CC to receive her associate’s degree. She plans to transfer to a four-year college to study forensic psychology.
Lestiadi’s project was a short video showing how music is capable of uniting people from different backgrounds. “I got the inspiration from one of the characters in the novel, Sheldon Thomas,” said Lestiadi, who plays the drums. “I want to raise awareness of how powerful music actually is and what it’s capable of.”
Lestiadi is studying mathematics at Edmonds CC. He hopes to transfer to the University of Virginia to earn his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master’s degree in teaching. Then, he plans to return to his native Indonesia to teach.
Ryan’s project consisted of an antique luggage trunk — filled with artifacts, photographs, and a diary reflecting the character Keiko’s sketch book — that tells a story about how the Japanese were forced into relocation centers during World War II. The trunk is representative of ones found in the basement of Seattle’s Panama Hotel, one of the book’s main settings.
“I incorporated the research I did last quarter in my Archaeology Methods class, where we researched the artifacts found at Japanese Gulch in Mukilteo,” said Ryan. “The project centers on Ford’s book and the Japanese Exclusion Act, and how both of these affected my own community of Bainbridge Island.”
Ryan plans to complete her associate’s degree and transfer to a four-year college for a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.
An award-winning short-story writer and New York Times bestselling author, Ford is an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and a survivor of Orson Card’s Literary Boot Camp. He grew up near Seattle’s Chinatown-International District. He is the great grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who immigrated from Kaiping, China to San Francisco in 1865, where he adopted the western name “Ford.”
This is the sixth year of the Edmonds CC Community Read program. Previous books have included “The Big Burn,” by Timothy Egan; “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer; “Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World,” by Dan Koeppel; “Middle Passage,” by Charles Johnson; and “Zaatar Days, Henna Nights, Adventures, Dreams, and Destinations Across the Middle East,” by Maliha Masood.