Study Guide

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Henry's "I am Chinese" Pin

By Jamie Ford

Henry's "I am Chinese" Pin

During World War II, Henry's father forces his son to wear an "I Am Chinese" pin, which feels kind of silly—and confusing—to Henry:

It was 1942, and they were desperate for him to learn English. Which only made Henry more confused when his father pinned a button to his school shirt that read, "I Am Chinese." (3.1)

Henry's parents aren't trying to arbitrarily label him; they're trying to keep him safe. They see the discrimination against Japanese American citizens all around them, so they give Henry the pin in order to keep him from being harassed or rounded-up by the police. Trouble is, the pin also sets Henry apart from his white peers and makes him feel even more like an outsider than ever. The pin is just another reminder that he's not like everyone else, even if it does come in handy from time to time, like when the clerk refuses to sell Keiko the record because she's Japanese. It's a small victory in a lived experience otherwise governed by racism. Ugh.

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