Hastings Reads main event fills HAC

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Hastings Reads, Hastings' annual community reading program, has ended. This year's main event was held Tuesday, Feb. 21, at the Hastings Arts Center.

The evening kicked off with jazz music performed by Hastings High School musicians as people arrived. The focus on the night, however, was bestselling author Jamie Ford, whose book "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" was this year's adult selection for Hastings Reads.

Ford took the stage to talk about his book, read a short selection and take questions from Hastings readers. Afterwards, he signed copies of his book and took a few pictures with readers.

Ford told a few tales of his time on the road and discussed how he came to write the book in the first place.

"What I really set out to write was a love story," he told the audience.

His inspiration came from his family history; he is half Chinese, he explained, and recalled some of his father's experiences growing up in the time of World War II, a time when Japanese Americans faced heavy persecution. He also loves history, and the end result was a multicultural, historical love story.

"I just had to go there. I had to own it," he said.

In its final state, "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" follows a boy and a girl during World War II, tells of their love story while also addressing the harsh realities of life during that particular moment of American history.

"The characters are made up, but the events are real," Ford said.

In the Q&A portion of the event, Ford fielded questions like why he chooses to write about young protagonists, what it means to be an assimilated American, the ties between language and culture and tradition for immigrants to America and more.

Earlier in the day, Ford stopped at Hastings High School to meet with students who had read his book. He also signed copies there.

Hastings Reads 2017, held over the month of February, focused on the Japanese American Experience. Over the course of the month, Hastings residents not only got to read books (one for each of three reading levels) focused on that theme, but also got to attend other events, all focused on the same theme.