Getting to know Jamie Ford
Award-winning and bestselling historical novelist Jamie Ford is one of our favorite authors. He is probably best known for his debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which spent two and a half years on the New York Times Bestseller List. It was also awarded best "Adult Fiction" book at the 2010 Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature, and if that wasn't enough, it was also named the No. 1 Book Club Pick for Fall 2009/Winter 2010 by the American Booksellers Association.
Jamie's family is steeped in rich history and can be considered symbolic of the realization of the American dream. His great-grandfather, Min Chung, immigrated to Tonopah, Nevada, in 1865 and later changed his name to William Ford as it helped Americanize him to his neighbors. His great grandmother Loy Lee Ford was the first Chinese woman to ever own property in Nevada.
Jamie was born on the 9th of July 1968. He has always had a keen interest in literature, and in an interview, when asked what kind of child he was, he responded that it was easy to sum up in one sentence – My parents sent me to poetry camp!
In a recent interview with Publishers Weekly, Jamie describes himself, "I've always been super sentimental. I was emo before emo was a term. There are literary writers who find love stories pedantic, but I'm not that person. I've tried writing stories that aren't love stories, but they just want to be there, so I shamelessly lean into it."
His heritage has impacted his work, and in the same interview, Jamie explained that it wasn't until his father died when he was 31 that he felt disconnected from his Chinese heritage. As a result, he says that he dove into research to better understand his father and grandfather and deal with the regret of not having asked them more questions when they were alive.
Jamie is married to Leesha Procopio, and he incorporated his Chinese ancestry by getting married on the 8th of August, 2008, at 8:08 pm - the number eight considered lucky by the Chinese. Jamie currently lives in Montana and, as his bio says, "with his wife, a one-eyed pug, and his imaginary friends".
Jamie gives a voice to those with untold stories and successfully manages to create an emotional connection between the various characters and his audience. His ability to bring these characters to life while always maintaining a sense of authenticity is what sets him apart. These incredible stories will touch your heart and make you think, but more importantly, they make you feel.
The Many Daughters of Afong Moy
His latest novel has been described as one of the most beautiful books about motherhood and what we pass on to those that come after us along with a powerful exploration of the love that binds one family across the generations.
His inspiration for The Many Daughters of Afong Moy was due to his research into epigenetics and how epigenetics looks at how we can possibly inherit behavioral and psychological traits. This story is about inherited trauma, but Jamie also describes it as redemptive and hopeful and calls it his epigenetic love story.
The story is centered around the descendants of Afong Moy. Afong was a real person and reportedly the first Chinese woman to come to America, and for many years, she was exhibited at sideshows to paying crowds. The story follows her fictional descendants and their stories over several generations.
In alternating chapters, he explores the inherited trauma, ancestral pain, and love of these incredible women, including a nurse serving with the Flying Tigers in the 1940s and a Seattle poet in 2045.
Love and Other Consolation Prizes
His third book was first published in 2017 and was named by the Library Journal as one of the Best Historical Fiction Novels of the same year.
This heart-wrenching story is set in the early 1900s in Seattle, and Jamie brings to life a boy that has been all but forgotten. During the 1909 World's Fair, a young boy named Earnest was auctioned off, and there is nothing else known about him. Jamie gives us a glimpse into what this young boy's life could have been like as we follow him into adulthood.
Songs of Willow Frost
Songs of Willow Frost was first published in 2013 and follows the lives of 12-year-old William, a Chinese-American orphan, and Liu Song, a woman with a haunted past. William has lived at the Sacred Heart Orphanage ever since his mother's lifeless body was taken from the small apartment. When William is taken to the Moore Theatre for his birthday, he catches a glimpse of an actress called Willow Frost, and he becomes convinced that she is his mother.
The story is set during the Depression era and is a powerful story of a boy with dreams of the future and a woman escaping her past. This emotional story is about discovering love, hope, and forgiveness and is a stark reminder of the importance of family and a place to call home.
Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet
Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet was first published in 2009 and has subsequently been translated into 35 different languages. His first book, as mentioned earlier, was a resounding success.
Set in the Nihonmachi and Chinatown-International District areas of Seattle, Washington, the story centers around a Chinese-American man named Henry Lee at different points during his lifetime. The book alternates between two narratives, one set in 1942, just after the United States entered World War II, where Henry faces various challenges from racism to love. The second narrative is set in 1986 and focuses on the latter part of his life, where he tries to reconnect with his grown-up son after the death of his wife.
Why do we recommend this author?
Aside from his incredible writing, we love his authenticity and humbleness; he describes himself as a self-taught writer and is not afraid to show his vulnerable side, sharing, "I have a two-year degree in design from the Art Institute of Seattle—a school that doesn't exist anymore. I don't have a literary MFA pedigree. I feel self-conscious at times, but I do have an understanding of who I am and what I'm capable of. I consider myself to be in the compassion creation business."
It is these characteristics that run through the pages of all his stories. His publisher, Lizzy McGuire, says that the thread that runs through Jamie's books is a person's desire for connection and wanting to be known and understood. And that is something each and every one of us can identify with.