Karen Tei Yamashita has been honored with the American Book Award and Janet Heidinger Kafka Award. A stunning portrait of Asian Americans in 1960s and ’70s San Francisco, I Hotel is a remarkable collection of 10 related novellas. Touching on such topics as Japanese internment camps and the Marcos dictatorship, the book presents readers with characters of rich design.
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Expansive and Breath Taking
Because this is a collection of 10 novellas that have overlapping characters, there were times when I wish I had an opportunity to look at the table of contents or a diagram of the relationship of all the characters. There were just so many characters that without the addition of seeing their names and roles in writing, I sometimes got lost and felt I was missing an important link that would add to the significance of the story.
The individual novellas didn't have titles and the only way I knew we were switching novellas was when the main narrator changed. I found this somewhat frustrating because I felt lost in the story.
However, besides that, this was one of the best books I have read in years. I am in awe of how Yamashita told these stories with the backdrop of the counter culture of the 1960s and 70s. She captures the violence, the sit-ins, the demonstrations, and through her attention to detail brings that period of San Francisco history to life in a way that no text book ever could.
Out of the 10 novellas, there were about two that I felt didn't live up to the other 8 but maybe that was because in the end I was listening to the book for several hours at time and may have just needed a listening break.
My other regret is that I didn't have a reading buddy for this book. It's a book that is ideal for a book club because it makes us look at ourselves in a way that is not always pleasant. And I would love to hear how other people reacted to the story, the history and the message of I Hotel.
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