Best-selling author Jamie Ford makes his Beaver Valley debut
TWP CENTER. − Best-selling author Jamie Ford looks forward to his first visit to Beaver County and western Pennsylvania.
“I’ve never been to Pittsburgh. I’ve been to Philadelphia, Reading, Penn State, so I’m super glad I got to go. It’s been on my list for a long time,” he said.
Pittsburgh-area readers have often reached out to Ford, hoping to see the Pacific Northwest Montana native make one of his popular in-person appearances.
“But then when I run it through my publicist, I’ll be booked in St. Louis, or wherever, for whatever reason,” Ford said.
Clearly, the Beaver County Library System found the right approach to attract an appearance here by Ford, author of the famous “Hotel on The Corner of Bitter and Sweet.”
Ford will be the guest speaker June 23 at a 6 p.m. event at the Community College of Beaver County Library & Learning Resources Center. The event is free but the number of places is limited and registration is compulsory at eventbrite.com. A pre-reception with WWII-era jazz and a free tea bar begins at 4:30 p.m. that afternoon at CCBC’s Center Township campus library. All details are at beaverlibraries.org
“I do a lot of events like this, from tiny libraries in Montana, where I live, to towns of 700 people, to big gala fundraisers where I’m just one of a gallery of authors, including quasi-author celebrities,” Ford said. .
By quasi-authors, he means pop culture celebrities who became famous for being, well, famous, and then writing a book about it. Ford recognizes their merits.
“They’re good to join in a fundraiser,” Ford said.
Although he reached the top of the New York Times bestseller list in good faith, as a professional author whose “Hotel on The Corner of Bitter and Sweet” touched the hearts of readers and impressed historians. , as lovers of Seattle during World War II. story between a Chinese-American boy and a Japanese-American girl threatened with being sent to a burial camp.
Ford’s first novel was chosen as Borders Original Voices Selection, Barnes & Noble Book Club Selection, Target Bookmarked Club and No. 1 Book Club Pick for Fall 2009/Winter 2010 by the American Booksellers Associationand translated into 35 languages.
“For my appearances, I tend to think of them as 50% entertainment, 40% education, and 10% just me reading,” Ford said.
Fans of his books inevitably come up with “juicy stuff” with probing questions, Ford said.
In a phone interview with The Times, Ford could offer no update on long-delayed plans for a film adaptation of “Hotel on The Corner of Bitter and Sweet.”
“The global pandemic put a stop to that for a while,” Ford said. “I really don’t know what the last one is.”
Licensing the movie rights to a book you’ve written is “kind of like selling your kid to the circus,” Ford joked, “but I wish them luck.”
The pandemic-prolonged delay could work in favor of any eventual release of the film, Ford said.
“In the six or seven years since I cast him, there’s been an explosion of Asian-American acting talent in the United States,” said Ford, whose father is from Chinese origin. “Streaming shows have had hits with actors that no one in the United States has heard of before. There have been many opportunities for Korean actors who were unfamiliar to American audiences. So they have started trying out shows like “Squid Game” which trained people how to use subtitles.
“And we’re in a golden age in history,” Ford said. “There’s a lot of cross-pollination of cultures. People are interested in learning about other cultures.”
Although Ford is concerned that some of the racism addressed in “Hotel on The Corner of Bitter and Sweet” has found ground. In the early years after the book’s release in 2009, readers would ask Ford if he thought our society would see widespread racism on this level again.
“I said no, no, never. We’re past that in our society,” Ford said. “But since then the pendulum has swung back. Now we have politicians who use grandstanding to gain power. The tone has changed. There are politicians who would throw an entire community under the bus to get elected. That’s very disheartening.”
Although a self-proclaimed optimist who firmly believes better days lie ahead, Ford said, “We are now in the midst of something that looks bleak.”
Amid a rising tide of censorship, Ford also said, “I feel like libraries are under attack, which makes me want to help out, especially in underserved communities.”
Ford’s visit is timely, said Courtney Colaizzi, project coordinator and social media manager for the Beaver County Library System, sponsor of the event.
“With a topic that for many hits close to home, we are thrilled and honored to have such an acclaimed author join us in revitalizing reading for our One Book Beaver County community,” said Colaizzi. “Hosting Jamie Ford is a pivotal moment for Beaver County, not just our libraries.”
The One Book Beaver County Reading Program is an initiative of the county-wide local library system, encouraging all residents to read and discuss the same book.
Ford set his first three novels in Seattle, one of his childhood hometowns, which has changed a lot, and not necessarily for the better.
“The place where I grew up has become very gentrified. A lot of people can’t afford to live there now. It’s a different place,” Ford said.
For his next book, “I’ve thrown the training wheels, for a historical-speculative fiction book set in Baltimore, China, and San Francisco,” Ford said.
This novel, “The Many Daughters of Afong Moy,” arrives in August, with a more complex storyline involving six key characters, set in modern times but traveling through generations since 1834 China.
“It was really challenging,” said Ford, who drew inspiration from speculative fictional heroes like Harlan Ellison, whose works inspired Ford to become a writer.
Any writer will tell you that travel is essential to their craft, so Ford takes the opportunity to visit Beaver County.
The CCBC lecture and Ford Q&A begins at 6 p.m. at the Resource Center, following a 5:30 p.m. presentation by Heinz History Center curator Leslie Przybylek on the first Chinese immigrants to Beaver Falls and the the county’s association with World War II.
“Travel is always instructive. Every corner of the country has its own unique atmosphere and local standards,” Ford said. “I love traveling to smaller communities, where there’s always a rich history that’s less understood. It’s like collecting real snapshots of the fabric of society. I find it super fascinating.”
Meeting and mingling with other book lovers who enjoy her novels always enhances the experience.
“I describe it as blowing out my birthday candles over and over again,” Ford said. “Writing is the hardest part, and editing is the hardest part. It’s just icing on the cake. And I’m happy to talk to anyone about books. And not just my books. Any book. I’m in a book club.”
Scott Tady is the entertainment editor at The Times and easy to reach at [email protected]