County celebrates reading
Annual educational program highlights WWII-era literature
Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 03:04
WILMINGTON, Del.—Eight university students twirled blue fans while dancing to traditional Chinese music on Friday at the Brandywine Hundred Library in Wilmington.
The Dragonfly Dance Club, a student-run Chinese dance group, performed as part of the 2012 New Castle County Reads program, which promotes the county’s libraries and a book specifically chosen annually by the organizers. The program is in its seventh year.
This year, “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” by Jamie Ford, was selected to mark the 70th anniversary of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s executive order that set up Japanese internment camps in America during World War II.
“Every year that we do New Castle County Reads, we try to find a book that will resonate with a wide variety of audiences,” said Pat Birchenall, manager of the Newark Free Library.
According to Birchenall, Ford writes about Henry, a Chinese-American boy who befriends a Japanese-American girl, Keiko, at a school in which they are the only two students of Asian heritage. Keiko and her family are sent to an internment camp, but the two are able to continue their friendship. As an adult, Henry continues to worry about his friend.
The book highlights the tension between Chinese and Japanese residents in the 1940s, and shows how the children overcame the struggle.
“It’s interesting to read the story from a child’s perspective,” said 2007 university alumna Sara Zimmerman, who attended Friday’s event.
Newark resident Anita Gorton, 33, said she also enjoyed the book.
“The first chapters were kind of rough, but it really hooks you in at some point,” Gorton, who also attended Friday’s event, said.
She said the book seemed realistic and was surprised to learn the account was fictional.
Free classes and performances, such as Friday’s by the Dragonfly Dance Club, help educate library patrons and community members about the time period, as well as Japanese and Chinese cultures, according to Birchenall.
Other events include firsthand accounts from a Japanese-American man whose family was sent to an internment camp and a Chinese woman who grew up in Japan during the war.
Birchenall said a dramatic reading of a Japanese-American girl’s diary during the war, scheduled for April 29 at the Newark Free Library, will also offer more information about Asian individuals at the time.
Ford will visit campus Thursday for a meet-and-greet book signing. Gorton said Friday’s event helped her better connect with the author’s book.
“It really brings the book to life,” Gorton said.