Coffee House Press, Paperback, 9781566892391, 613pp.
Publication Date: June 1, 2010
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.
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 righteousnessand self-righteousnessof 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 Worldan 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