I Hotel

I Hotel

2.6 6
by Karen Tei Yamashita, Leland Wong, Sina Grace
     
 

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2010 National Book Award Finalist
2010-2011 Asian/Pacific American Library Association (APALA) Book Award Winner in Adult Fiction
2010 California Book Award Winner

Dazzling and ambitious, this hip, multi-voiced fusion of prose, playwriting, graphic art, and philosophy spins an epic tale of America’s struggle for civil rights as it played out

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Overview


2010 National Book Award Finalist
2010-2011 Asian/Pacific American Library Association (APALA) Book Award Winner in Adult Fiction
2010 California Book Award Winner

Dazzling and ambitious, this hip, multi-voiced fusion of prose, playwriting, graphic art, and philosophy spins an epic tale of America’s struggle for civil rights as it played out in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Divided into ten novellas, one for each year, I Hotel begins in 1968, when Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated, students took to the streets, the Vietnam War raged, and cities burned.

As Karen Yamashita’s motley cast of students, laborers, artists, revolutionaries, and provocateurs make their way through the history of the day, they become caught in a riptide of politics and passion, clashing ideologies and personal turmoil. And by the time the survivors unite to save the International Hotel—epicenter of the Yellow Power Movement—their stories have come to define the very heart of the American experience.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

In Yamashita's latest, she strings together a stunningly complete vision of San Francisco's Asian American community in the late 1960s and early '70s, using the titular inn as a meeting point for ten loosely-connected novellas, each covering a single year. Focusing on the struggle for equality and peace as it involved this particular community, Yamashita's work also incorporates a broad view of the Asian and Asian American experiences, from Japanese internment camps to the Marcos dictatorship. Yamashita accomplishes a dynamic feat of mimesis by throwing together achingly personal stories of lovers, old men, and orphaned children; able synopses of historical events and social upheaval; and public figures like Lenin and Malcolm X (Yamashita's opening line: "So I'm Water Cronkite, dig?"). Despite its experimental and fictionalized nature, the novel reads more like a patchwork oral history, determined to relate the facts of its setting and, more importantly, the feelings of it; with varied commingling of voices and formats (stream-of-consciousness, slangy first person, quotes, dossiers, academic papers, even written-out choreography), the narrative reads like a collection of primary sources. Though it isn't for everyone, this powerful, deeply felt, and impeccably researched fiction is irresistibly evocative and overwhelming in every sense. 30 b&w photos and illus.
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From the Publisher

“As original as it is political, as hilarious as it is heartbreaking, I Hotel is the result of a decade of research and writing that included more than 150 personal interviews. . . . [and] will be dog-eared and underlined and assigned to college reading lists for generations. . . . In the end, the way I Hotel accounts for the Asian American movement is both sweet and sour. And for all the losses Yamashita records, there are, we know, great achievements as well. High among them is this beautiful book.” —Washington Post Book World

"[Yamashita] hasn't gained the broad recognition she richly deserves."Reader's Digest

“Brilliant. . . . [Yamashita’s] ambition is achieved with efficiency, showmanship and wit. . . . A surgically deft depiction of the political entwined with the personal. . . . Yamashita’s book recalls what art is for: ‘To resist death and dementia . . . To kiss . . . you good-bye, leaving the indelible spit of our DNA on still moist lips. Sweet. Sour. Salty. Bitter.’ In other words, I Hotel’s complex taste lingers and haunts, like something alive.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“As in her previous works, Yamashita incorporates satire and the surreal in prose that is playful yet knowing, fierce yet mournful, in a wildly multicultural landscape. . . . [A] passionate, bighearted novel.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Yamashita captures the fiery righteousness—and self-righteousness—of the civil-rights movement. . . . The complexity of the era that led to the birth of Asian America. It’s a glorious tone poem, a rich reminder of the multicultural, multifaceted past from which our city grows.” —San Francisco Magazine

“It’s a stylistically wild ride, but it’s smart, funny and entrancing.” —Michael Schaub, National Public Radio

“The breadth of I Hotel’s embrace is encyclopedic and its effect is kaleidoscopic. It wants to inform and dazzle us on the confusions and conclusions on the question of culture and assimilation.” —Chicago Tribune

“[A] multiform swirl of a novel about a decade in the life of San Francisco’s Chinatown and, by extension, the Asian experience in America. . . . With delightful plays of voice and structure, this is literary fiction at an adventurous, experimental high point.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Exuberant, irreverent, passionately researched . . . Yamashita’s colossal novel of the dawn of Asian American culture is the literary equivalent of an intricate and vibrant street mural depicting a clamorous and righteous era of protest and creativity.” —Booklist, (starred review)

“Magnificent. . . . Intriguing.” —Library Journal

“Stunningly complete. . . . Yamashita accomplishes a dynamic feat of mimesis by throwing together achingly personal stories of lovers, old men, and orphaned children; able synopses of historical events and social upheaval . . . This powerful, deeply felt, and impeccably researched fiction is irresistibly evocative.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“[Yamashita’s] novel is breathtaking in its scope and its energy and innovation make it a good fit with the exciting and transformative time period that it covers. . . . I Hotel demonstrates how complicated and finally irreducible history is-the many voices and perspectives it comprises, the divergent and winding paths it takes, the way it confounds conventional narrative. Yamashita celebrates this complexity, and she’s such a deft storyteller that you’ll end up celebrating it with her.”—Women’s Review of Books

“I Hotel is an amazing literary accomplishment and one of the most pleasurable reading experiences I have ever had. I believe it stands on the same plane of accomplishment as Roberto Bolaño’s Savage Detectives and Edward P. Jones’s The Known World—an amazing literary accomplishment and a brave and bold act of publishing.” —Paul Yamazaki, City Lights Booksellers

“Huge, messy, and frantically fun, I Hotel offers a very believable panorama of life at this time. . . . The portraits of these early generation Asian Americans . . . are quite moving and conveyed without sentimentality. It’s an impressive accomplishment from an author who continues to push the boundaries of innovative fiction.” —Rain Taxi

“One of the the things that is so amazing about Karen Tei Yamashita’s most recent novel, I Hotel, is that she not only retrieves the sad beauty of a particularly fraught period of a particularly squalid community —Asian Americans in San Francisco during the 1960s-70s — but that she does so in a way that is also exhilarating, celebratory. . . . Which is why we need novels like I Hotel: to patiently help the world remember itself.”—American Book Review

I Hotel is an explosive site, a profound metaphor and jazzy, epic novel rolled into one. Karen Tei Yamashita chronicles the colliding arts and social movements in the Bay Area of the wayward ’70s with fierce intelligence, humor and empathy.” —Jessica Hagedorn

I Hotel, in a genre all its own somewhere between historical fiction and creative nonfiction, is an inventive attempt to re-present such an era in a way that is simultaneously heuristic and available to the imaginations of the young.”—Boom

"I Hotel is a careful, considerate blend of fact and fiction, parody and pastiche; the book contains so many allusions to people, places, and things that comprised one of America's most transformational times that it bears comparison to such canonical works as John Dos Passos' U.S.A. trilogy, and, in many ways, deserves to be called an encyclopedic text."—Fiction Writers Review

"Karen [Yamashita] is playful and experimental; she loves spectacle and cultural complications."—Vida: Women in Literary Arts

Kirkus Reviews

An overstuffed, multiform swirl of a novel about a decade in the life of San Francisco's Chinatown and, by extension, the Asian experience in America.

Yamashita (Circle K Cycles, 2001, etc.) blends prose, theater and art into this set of related novellas centered on a shabby residential hotel. The story opens on the Lunar New Year of 1968. Says her narrator, "Now we know the Vietnamese call it Tet, but the Chinese own it: New Year, they call it," a time in Vietnam as in Chinatown of explosions, bright lights and revolutionary fervor. Vietnam haunts young Paul, who worries about dying there even as he prepares for his father's funeral; by Chinese reckoning, he is too young to take his place at the head of the family, but not to be swept up into a faraway conflict. Paul take his cues from Chen, a Mao- and Gertrude Stein–quoting collector of postcards, and from alternative journalist Edmund, who covers the foment over whether to establish an ethnic-studies program at the university and declare Chinese New Year a holiday in the local school system. The '60s shade into the '70s, and Yamashita's prose gives way to blocks of play-like dialogue complete with set directions ("Raucous laughter. sound of James Brown: "Like a Sex Machine"), as new characters come onto the stage that is the I Hotel, representing many ethnicities: a Filipino American farm workers' union activist; a Japanese American organizer who turns a sweatshop into the I-Hotel Cooperative Garment Factory, its machines "whirring with industry and purpose"; a burly Samoan who escapes being busted for illegally fishing by telling a warden, "See this tattoo?...This is my hunting license." Elements of the picaresque and the satirical play against passages that are almost documentary as the characters struggle to keep the hotel from being gentrified—and to keep the revolution alive in a time when just about everyone seems tired of politics.

With delightful plays of voice and structure, this is literary fiction at an adventurous, experimental high point.

Marcela Valdes
I Hotel is no ordinary work of fiction. As original as it is political, as hilarious as it is heartbreaking, I Hotel is the result of a decade of research and writing that included more than 150 personal interviews…In the end, the way I Hotel accounts for the Asian American movement is both sweet and sour. And for all the losses Yamashita records, there are, we know, great achievements as well. High among them is this beautiful book.
—The Washington Post

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781566892391
Publisher:
Coffee House Press
Publication date:
06/01/2010
Pages:
640
Sales rank:
565,414
Product dimensions:
6.48(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.57(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“As original as it is political, as hilarious as it is heartbreaking, I Hotel is the result of a decade of research and writing that included more than 150 personal interviews. . . . [and] will be dog-eared and underlined and assigned to college reading lists for generations. . . . In the end, the way I Hotel accounts for the Asian American movement is both sweet and sour. And for all the losses Yamashita records, there are, we know, great achievements as well. High among them is this beautiful book.” —Washington Post Book World

“Brilliant. . . . [Yamashita’s] ambition is achieved with efficiency, showmanship and wit. . . . A surgically deft depiction of the political entwined with the personal. . . . Yamashita’s book recalls what art is for: ‘To resist death and dementia . . . To kiss . . . you good-bye, leaving the indelible spit of our DNA on still moist lips. Sweet. Sour. Salty. Bitter.’ In other words, I Hotel’s complex taste lingers and haunts, like something alive.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“As in her previous works, Yamashita incorporates satire and the surreal in prose that is playful yet knowing, fierce yet mournful, in a wildly multicultural landscape. . . . [A] passionate, bighearted novel.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Yamashita captures the fiery righteousness—and self-righteousness—of the civil-rights movement. . . . The complexity of the era that led to the birth of Asian America. It’s a glorious tone poem, a rich reminder of the multicultural, multifaceted past from which our city grows.” —San Francisco Magazine

“It’s a stylistically wild ride, but it’s smart, funny and entrancing.” —Michael Schaub, National Public Radio

“The breadth of I Hotel’s embrace is encyclopedic and its effect is kaleidoscopic. It wants to inform and dazzle us on the confusions and conclusions on the question of culture and assimilation.” —Chicago Tribune

“[A] multiform swirl of a novel about a decade in the life of San Francisco’s Chinatown and, by extension, the Asian experience in America. . . . With delightful plays of voice and structure, this is literary fiction at an adventurous, experimental high point.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Exuberant, irreverent, passionately researched . . . Yamashita’s colossal novel of the dawn of Asian American culture is the literary equivalent of an intricate and vibrant street mural depicting a clamorous and righteous era of protest and creativity.” —Booklist,

“Magnificent. . . . Intriguing.” —Library Journal

“Stunningly complete. . . . Yamashita accomplishes a dynamic feat of mimesis by throwing together achingly personal stories of lovers, old men, and orphaned children; able synopses of historical events and social upheaval . . . This powerful, deeply felt, and impeccably researched fiction is irresistibly evocative.” —Publishers Weekly

“[Yamashita’s] novel is breathtaking in its scope and its energy and innovation make it a good fit with the exciting and transformative time period that it covers. . . . I Hotel demonstrates how complicated and finally irreducible history is-the many voices and perspectives it comprises, the divergent and winding paths it takes, the way it confounds conventional narrative. Yamashita celebrates this complexity, and she’s such a deft storyteller that you’ll end up celebrating it with her.”—Women’s Review of Books

“I Hotel is an amazing literary accomplishment and one of the most pleasurable reading experiences I have ever had. I believe it stands on the same plane of accomplishment as Roberto Bolaño’s Savage Detectives and Edward P. Jones’s The Known World—an amazing literary accomplishment and a brave and bold act of publishing.” —Paul Yamazaki, City Lights Booksellers

“Huge, messy, and frantically fun, I Hotel offers a very believable panorama of life at this time. . . . The portraits of these early generation Asian Americans . . . are quite moving and conveyed without sentimentality. It’s an impressive accomplishment from an author who continues to push the boundaries of innovative fiction.” —Rain Taxi

“One of the the things that is so amazing about Karen Tei Yamashita’s most recent novel, I Hotel, is that she not only retrieves the sad beauty of a particularly fraught period of a particularly squalid community —Asian Americans in San Francisco during the 1960s-70s — but that she does so in a way that is also exhilarating, celebratory. . . . Which is why we need novels like I Hotel: to patiently help the world remember itself.”—American Book Review

I Hotel is an explosive site, a profound metaphor and jazzy, epic novel rolled into one. Karen Tei Yamashita chronicles the colliding arts and social movements in the Bay Area of the wayward ’70s with fierce intelligence, humor and empathy.” —Jessica Hagedorn

I Hotel, in a genre all its own somewhere between historical fiction and creative nonfiction, is an inventive attempt to re-present such an era in a way that is simultaneously heuristic and available to the imaginations of the young.”—Boom

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Meet the Author


Heralded as a "big talent" by the Los Angeles Times, Karen Tei Yamashita is an American Book Award and Janet Heidinger Kafka Award winner. A California native who has also lived in Brazil and Japan, she is Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of California-Santa Cruz, where she received the Chancellor's Award for Diversity in 2009. Leland Wong is an illustrator, photographer, and screen printer renowned for his documentation of the Asian American experience. He lives in San Francisco. Sina Grace is a comic book artist and graphic novelist who lives in Los Angeles.

Karen Tei Yamashita is the author of Through the Arc of the Rain Forest, Brazil-Maru, Tropic of Orange, Circle K Cycles, and Anime Wong, all published by Coffee House Press. I Hotel was selected as a finalist for the National Book Award and awarded the California Book Award, the American Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association Award, and the Association for Asian American Studies Book Award. She has been a US Artists Ford Foundation Fellow and is currently Professor of Literature and Creative Writing and the co-holder of the University of California Presidential Chair for Feminist & Critical Race & Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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