Friday, February 4, 2011

1968 by Dan

1968: Eye Hotel

General Questions
1. Do you like or dislike Yamashita’s writing style, and why?
2. How does Yamashita’s writing style convey her message?
3. What is Yamashita’s message thus far in the book?
4. Which section of 1968 was your favorite and why?

Chapter 1. Year of the Monkey
Paul Lin’s father passes away during Lunar New Year festivities. Paul’s aunt comes to support him and help him handle the obligations concerning his father’s funeral. There is a procession through Chinatown, during which Paul meets Chen, a friend of his father’s, who teaches a Chinese literature class at San Francisco State. One day, Paul decides to clean his father’s house from top to bottom, and then go to SFSC to attend Chen’s classes, part of his journey to find out more about his own identity and his own niche now that he is on his own. He meets Edmund Lee, a full-time student but also works full time to support his family. Edmund is very intelligent and one of Chen’s brightest students. Later, there is a student-run protest against the administration of the school.

Memorable Quotes:
“Could have given her his dad’s entire library plus his paintings, burn it all up to heaven” (7).
“Got to see Chen to find the real keys to get back in” (13).
“Suddenly he sees himself multiplied, monkey orphans let loose, raising havoc” (17).

Paul’s passivity during the funeral proceedings show that he is not sure how to approach his father’s death. As an Asian American, he doesn’t seem to fully understand the meaning of the proceedings and their symbolism, and it is taken care of by his aunt. He gradually comes to the realization that he can learn from Chen, and attends his classes, not knowing what he will find. During the protests, he almost actively participates, but is restrained by Chen. He sees that the students protesting around him are just like him, and that this is an environment where he can discover more about who he is.

1. What are your feelings towards Paul?
2. Can you relate to him, or is it difficult?

Chapter 2. Language in Reaction
Chen was fired from the university, but continued to teach in a café. He taught about the teachings of Mao and how Mao believed that there two types of armies needed for social liberation: a military, and also a cultural army armed with the pen. Later, there is Japanese American Citizen’s League meeting, during which Edmund works the banquet and Paul is protesting outside. The acting president speaks during the meeting and expresses his belief that the elder generation of Japanese must communicate all the hardships they have experienced so that the younger generation can continue the tradition.

Memorable Quotes:
“He really believed in the cultural army, in liberation by means of the pen” (25).
“The winning civilization will be the one that keeps its history going” (34).

Chen shows how much faith he has in writing as a form of expression. Paul and Edmund are still learning about their roles in the Asian American community.

1. Why does Yamashita attribute such significance to the act of writing?

Chapter 3. Analects
Professor Chen applied for his sabbatical and travels to France, while Paul and Edmund remain stateside to take care of Chen’s finances and his properties. Paul and Edmund continue to immerse themselves in their environment. Edmund proactively researches about and contributes to the Asian American community through his writing. Edmund receives funding for a Chinatown Youth Service Center, which is established to better the community through employment support. When rejected by the Holiday Inn hotel for positions for Asian Americans on the staff, Edmund creates the group Chinese for Affirmative Action to protest. Paul continues to write and read poetry that demonstrates his struggle with his identity. Chen returns from France to find that the protest/strike agreements were never enacted, and that students and faculty were punished for their dissent.

Memorable Quotes:
“On which side of the bay does the father live? On which side of the bay does the worthy son?” (45-46)

Paul and Edmund continue to grow and become active voices in the community, even without the help of Professor Chen. They are gradually being groomed to carry on the work Chen has done throughout his life.

1. Do Paul and Edmund struggle with the same issues? How are their issues different?

Chapter 4. My Special Island
There are protests over the islands called the Tiao Yu Tai Islands. These islands have belonged to the Chinese and have been populated by Chinese fishermen through much of China’s history, but through an agreement between the US and Japan, the US have relinquished control of the islands to Japan without the consent or consultation of China or the residents of the island. The Tiao Yu Tai islands are also known to have significant oil reserves. There is a show of solidarity in support of the Chinese interests in those islands, and against the Japanese and American “imperialists.”

Memorable Quotes:
“This isn’t about supporting one government or another...this is about the sovereignty of the Chinese people...” (57).

Paul and Edmund’s journey towards discovering more about their heritage materializes during this conflict, and they see what it means to take a stand for their people, even if they have lost touch with that part of their background.

1. What is the significance to Paul saying “I cried, and I’m not really Chinese?”

Chapter 5. We
Chen and Paul meet on a ferry to Angel Island, the Ellis Island of the Pacific, where many Asian immigrants were detained for long periods of time. Paul and Chen make plans to publicize and publish material from Angel Island.

Memorable Quotes:
“Leaving behind my writing brush and removing my sword, I came to America” (62).

Chen and Paul’s collegiality is shown. They continue to work together to put Asian American struggles, past and present, on the map for others to see.

1. Who is the “we” that is constantly referred to?

Chapter 6. Tofu Tigers
Chen and Edmund travel to China as returning overseas citizens, to experience all that has changed since they’ve since they were last there. They are greeted by representatives of the Chinese Communist Party and are shown perspectives of a socialist society. They visit the village of Tachai, and Chen reconnects with his old professor, who no longer participates in writing or the activism he used to, to the disappointment of Chen. Edmund gets himself into trouble with the local authorities when a friend starts taking pictures.

Memorable Quotes:
“I applied [to college], but it’s my country’s wish that I work here” (67).

Both Chen and Edmund discover that their homeland was nothing like how it was when they left. The people are different (Chen’s old professor) and the customs have changed (that led to Edmunds encounter with local authorities). They no longer feel as strong of a bond to their homeland, and it is apparent their special niche is in the Asian American community in America.

1. Are the realizations Chen and Edmund come to positive ones?

Chapter 7. Chinatown Verité
The writing style of this section is in the form of a script of a film. The section details the hardships Asian Americans must endure, such as the dissociation of identity, and employment and living conditions. Edmund is mortally wounded during apparent gang activity.

Memorable Quotes:
“Chinese are greatest actors. We play double roles. We got our real names and then we got our paper names” (83).

The structure of this section is appropriate because Yamashita wants to portray the “acting” of the Chinatown residents. This is one of the most concrete passages of the novella and clearly and coldly presents life as it was.

1. Why was the death of Edmund included in the novella? What does it represent?

Chapter 8. This Moment
Paul, Chen, and Judy, who is a friend of Edmund’s, support each other in the aftermath of Edmund’s death. Paul turned to writing and invested himself more in the Poetry Boys Club that he was a part of, while Chen became disillusioned with the loss of his closest and brightest pupil. Chen functioned poorly and stopped writing, and became involved in a traffic accident. Chen resumed Edmund’s work, and it was clear that he and Edmund had a special connection that transcended their generational gap. Paul knew that they were the closer of the three of them and he was the odd one out. He later found out Chen had a relationship with his mother before introducing her to Paul’s father.

Memorable Quotes:
“Of this new generation, only Edmund had read Chen’s poetry and knew its flavor and value, but Edmund was no longer” (100).

Chen is dealing with what he believed the loss of value/appraisal for his work, with Edmund’s death. Without Edmund, he felt the younger generation i.e. Paul could not fully understand what it was that he, the older generation, have experienced and accomplished.

1. How was Paul and Chen affected differently with Edmund’s passing?

Chapter 9. Authentic Chinese Food
There is a Chinese story about two lovers that were only intimate twice a year, and after these passionate encounters, they would cook for each other and create extravagant cuisines. Chen and Jack discuss specific dishes for their cookbook.

Memorable Quotes:
“Taste travels to you from eight centuries” (109).

The cookbook represents a link to the past for Chen, and the past is consuming him and his thoughts and priorities.

1. What are Yamashita’s intentions in introducing this section on food?

Chapter 10. All the Things You Are
Paul and Chen reconcile and reconnect, under pressing conditions because Chen’s house is condemned during a storm and he is forced to relocate. Chen reassures Paul that he is not his father. They escape the storm together with what belongings they could take.

Memorable Quotes:
“I don’t need my stuff. I haven’t needed it all year” (111).

They take their unfinished manuscripts, and will likely resume the writing that has always kept them close.

1. Is this a satisfactory ending? What does Yamashita want you to think will happen?

Edited by Ji-Sun Ham

1969 by Jack

1969: I Spy Hotel
Edited by Dan Zhen

Chapter 1. Dossier #9066
In this section, Yamashita brings the reader into the mindset of analyzing a folder or document about Professor Tom Takabayashi. Within the document we learn that Takabayashi was born in Seattle in 1926. At 16 he is placed in internment camps with his family. We learn about Takabayashi’s education and the doctorate degree he receives on parole systems in America. The chapter includes his early career and his initial involvement with “radical protests.” In 1974, Berkeley School of Criminology is closed and the faculty blames Takabayashi and his protestors. Throughout the chapter, Takabayashi is portrayed as an instigator and a suspect of criminal activity. Eventually, Takabayashi’s wife leaves him after suspicious activity not highlighted by the report. Conspicuously, Yamashita chooses to blacken out names of popular stars and other professors to add to the mystique of the reading experience. This limited knowledge reflects postmodern literature, where authors seek to address realities of life and wish to reflect on individuals’ ignorance about specific events.

Memorable Quotes:
“I took actual parole cases and crossed out the names and decisions, sent them to justices around the state , and had them retry the cases…the decisions were ultimately preferential, personal, and ideological” (120).
“Students saw three choices: go to school, go to prison, go to war. We challenged the idea that society, and therefore education, should be controlled by the threat of punishment and the history of race” (127).

1. How does chapter 1's title (Dossier #9066) pertain to civil rights struggles in the book thus far?
2. What is your interpretation about the black-out names on pages 119, 121 etc?

Chapter 2. Recorded Live in Your Face
In this chapter, Yamashita displays this section as if it were a movie script. Each scene is detailed beforehand. Here, the chapter first follows the Asian American Experience class (Professor Takabayashi’s class) at Berkeley as it prepares a protest. Coincidentally, Takabayashi is portrayed as having almost nothing to do with the protests, simply offering a classroom for the students to meet. After the quick meeting, the students confront Takabayashi’s guest, Professor Haas and call him a racist for his book. Only one student is named by his actual name, James Baba, an important character later on. The scenes describe the hectic violence of the protests and demonstrate the extremism of both the students and of the police, nicknamed “the pigs.” Mo Akagi breaks in threatening to kill Baba. At the same time, though not related (at this point), a Minister of Defense meets with revolutionaries and teaches them to fire weapons. The chapter moves on to a JTC meeting (J-Town Collective) where members are screening a movie on police crackdowns in other neighborhoods. We learn that the JTC is trying to protect the Nihonmachi neighborhood from eviction. James Baba is an important organizer and talks strategy with other members, notably Aiko Masaoka. The chapter ends with James Baba packing up with many questions still remaining about the JTC’s mission in Nihonmachi. Significantly, James Baba is referenced by many members of the JTC as their James Brown, a popular voice of the civil rights movement.

Memorable Quotes:
“Check out what it says about mace and tear gas” (129).
“(Policeman 2) It’s not him…(Policeman 1)…Book him anyway. Resisting arrest. Assaulting a policeman. Obstructing entrance to a public space” (136).
“Molotov cocktails and stones are called criminal weapons, but how else can we defend ourselves?” (149).
“It is a conglomerate of well-to-do property owners and business interests…Their aims are selfish and do not account for the lives of longtime renters who have lived and operated their businesses in Nihonmachi for generations” (158-159).

1. In chapter 2, how does the reader's viewpoint of Professor Takabayashi change from chapter 1? What significance does this have with Yamashita's writing style?
2. What is interesting to you about Yamashita's view of the "pigs"?
3. What is the significance of the scene with Mo Akagi or the Minister of Defense?
4. Why does Yamashita reference James Brown at the end to many sections? What does this have to do with James?

Chapter 3. A Need to Know Basis
This chapter focuses on the relationship between the characters Nelson and Aiko. As their short relationship plays out, Yamashita interludes with a voice-over that talks about infiltrating an organization. First, Nelson is caught trying to steal Aiko’s car. James Baba shows up and recognizing Nelson, who plays it off as a joke, which was highly unlikely. James places Nelson under Aiko’s reluctant care and slowly, Nelson begins to develop a new identity within the community. As the voice-overs become more sinister and intense, Nelson reveals a stranger has been visiting the JTC’s offices looking for James. Unfortunately, Nelson nearly blows his cover with a character named Jay and mysteriously leaves. It is important to note that this story is given no timeline, so the reader must make their own assumptions about its chronology. Aiko’s feelings for Nelson were extremely strong, yet Nelson’s quick exit once again leaves the reader with many questions about Nelson’s true purposes within the JTC.

Memorable Quotes:
”We suspect the offices are bugged, so we move our strategy meetings around to other locations” (170).
“Say a white group and a colored group want to align themselves for power purposes. It’s easy. Pull the race card, shit about their ‘national’ position, see what I mean? No way they see eye to eye” (174).
“Anonymous letters…Anonymous phone calls. Someone calls with a tip. Same tip for another guy on the other guy. Could be regarding a woman or money. Either will do. Starts a fuckin’ war” (177).

1. In chapter 3, what does the voice-over add to the scene?
2. Was Nelson a spy? If not, who was? How can you be sure?
3. Why does Yamashita contrast the scenes of peace (children playing, lilies in a pond, grandparents) with the dark side of the voice-over? What does this say about society today?

1970 by Bhushan

I Hotel — Book 3

The style of Book 3 was quite different from Books 1 and 2. Instead of being a collection of fairly long stories, Book 3 was broken up into 8 chapters that were all less than 5 pages apiece.

Chapter 1: I Am Hip


Two people, described as “ministers of information of the Black Panther Party and the Red Guard Party,” are sitting in a Moscow hotel room talking about the past. Their plan is to travel through the Communist countries of Asia and eventually meet Mao Zedong. RG, the Red Guard Party’s Minister of Information, tells a story about his past. He went on tours with Janis Joplin as a stagehand, doing drugs and protesting with hippies to avoid the draft. The chapter ends with RG telling the story of his trip to a military recruitment office while on meth, shouting about how he wanted to be an addict.

Quote at the end of the chapter: “The Black Panther Party hereby offers to the National Liberation Front and Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam an undetermined number of troops to assist you in your fight against American imperialism.” — Huey P. Newton, founder of the Black Panther Party. (196)


Q1. It is understandable that the Black Panther and Red Guard Parties felt animosity towards the US government. Why do you think they focused on the soldiers and the Vietnam War in particular?

Chapter 2: I Am a Brother


Chapter 2 continues where Chapter 1 left off, in the Moscow hotel room. During the conversation, Mo Akagi, a Japanese member of the Black Panthers, is brought up, and his story is told.

Akagi, as a Japanese American, was interned between the ages of five and nine during World War II. Mo met Huey P. Newton soon after and joined a gang with him. At eighteen, he enrolled in the army during a period of peace, hoping to be like one of the members of the 442nd regiment, but there was no one to fight. Once he got out of the army, he enrolled at UC Berkley. He looked into joining Malcolm X, but decided against it because it would require him to be celibate and to quit smoking and drinking.

Akagi read Marx and other radicals and began designing a curriculum for potential recruits to read. He started smuggling in The Little Red Book via China and using the profits to fund the Black Panther Party.

Chapter 3: I Am a Warrior


The storytelling continues. The Panther asks how the Asian-Americans of the Red Guard Party met the Black Panthers. Their alliance was the result of Asian-American girls from Chinatown hooking up with African-American guys from Oakland, which led to the two of them creating armed safe houses together. One of these safe houses was surrounded by the police with guns while the Black Panther and a character named Woman Warrior were inside. That is when the chapter ends.


Q1. Very little information is given in this chapter about the characters. Why do you think Yamashita does this?

Chapter 4: I Am a Crusader


The Black Panther from Chapter 3 manages to escape from the safe house. Meanwhile, Akagi is organizing Black Panther chapters across the country. He communicates with Robert F. Williams, author of Negros with Guns and producer of Radio Free Dixie, who is broadcasting from Cuba and is also in China. Williams and Malcolm X inspire the Black Panther movement.

Akagi becomes a weapons trainer for the Panthers. When the Panthers march in Sacramento, they become national news. Even isolated people from places as far away as Reed College (Portland, OR) telegram in saying they want to join and Akagi goes out to accept them.


Q1. The chapter ends with a quote by Mao Tse-tung calling for people of all classes and races to rise up and join the revolution. What parallels do you see between Mao’s quote and this chapter?

Chapter 5: I Am a Martial Artist


This chapter describes daily life for adolescent gangsters in Chinatown. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of adult supervision, and kids are in and out of juvie. Some get jobs at the local pool hall, but police brutality and harassment ruin any chance of keeping their jobs as a stable enterprise. There is significant tension between the Chinatown-born kids, Legitimate Way, and the foreign-born kids, the Wah Ching. Legitimate Way, RG, and a Russian kid decide to organize themselves, preserve order, and defend themselves against both police brutality and the Wah Ching in order to impress visiting Black Panthers.

Meanwhile, RG and Panther, who are still in the Moscow hotel room, decide to start smoking. However, they accidentally light the carpet on fire.


Q1. Why is there such tension/aggressiveness between the foreign-born kids and the Chinatown-born kids? Why would the Chinatown-born kids far prefer to associate with the Black Panthers than the foreign-born kids?

Chapter 6: I Am the Third World


The police begin shutting down Black Panther operations across the United States. Dozens die and hundreds are incarcerated. A number of minority groups rally near the Hall of Justice and the San Francisco Jail. Since RG is missing, Akagi, the Japanese Panther, decides to represent the Asian-American community.

Akagi gives a speech to try to rally the crowd. He talks about how suppression of minority groups (black, Native American, Asian-American) had been practiced ever since the European “invaders” arrived. He relates that to what is happening in the modern day and says that the excuse given of “law and order” is nonsense. He mentions how women have been oppressed to make sure that feminists are represented, but quickly moves past that. He brings up Marxism but quickly brings down the material to the common listener’s understanding so that he can unite the people there under a banner of “Third World solidarity.”

Chapter 7: I Am a Revolutionary


We go back to RG and Panther in their Moscow hotel room. They manage to put out the fire and start to consider all the things that have happened in the world recently. They compare themselves to Che, Mao, and Malcolm doing their long journeys. Then they go back to storytelling. After the events of the above chapters, Legitimate Way becomes the Red Guard and tries to improve and safeguard Chinatown. During Waverly, a youth festival in Chinatown, a drunken tourist starts tossing firecrackers into the crowd. An RG member tosses him out, and two policemen come after the RG member, ignoring the hurt Asian-Americans. He fights them off, and the Red Guards put on a show of force that night, constantly exploding fireworks.


Q1. Do you think the Red Guards are really that much better than the policemen? Explain.

Chapter 8: I Am the Vanguard


RG and Panther, still in the hotel room, talk about women. They both dream of a woman who is as into the revolutionary movement as they are. She is totally devoted to the movement and to her man, willing to raise his children, even if he is cheating on the woman.

Akagi found a “righteous woman” to date and live with for a while, but eventually she could not take the stress that came from his frequent nighttime absences to patrol for the Panthers, and she left him. He plans to go live in the I-Hotel with the old Filipino and Chinese bachelors because he is a bachelor too.


Q1. We finally have reached a point where the I-Hotel is mentioned. Where do you the story will go from here?

Questions for the overall novella:

Q1. Did you feel the way Yamashita told the events of Book 3 made things more confusing or more understandable than Books 1 and 2?

Q2. The chapter titles in this Book are all of the form “I Am…” Why you think Yamashita titled them in this way?

Q3. What exactly was the purpose of this chapter?

Guide by Bhushan

Edited by Abby

1971 by Michael

1972 by Abby

1972: Inter-national Hotel

Guide by Abby

Edited by Sarah Neville


Each chapter is structured in a similar way. Each chapter is broken up into sections, with a quote by various famous revolutionaries or political figures at the beginning of each section. Within each section, each paragraph is given its own number, somewhat like a play. Each section within the chapter usually ends with some sort of paragraph that imparts wisdom or a moral value.

Questions to think about:

  1. Who is the oppressed? Is the oppressed one group of people or many groups? Is everyone oppressed in the same way? How are women oppressed - are they different from other oppressed groups?
  2. Who is a revolutionary? How are revolutionaries the same and different? What makes someone a revolutionary?
  3. What is the difference between history and a story? Are we being told a history or a story? How can you tell? How does this influence the way we should interpret the events in this hotel and in the whole book?

1: The Art of War


The quotes in this chapter are all by a famous revolutionary.

This is an overview of the events that will mostly be described in more detail later. It describes the lives of Olivia “Olie” Wang, the granddaughter of a failed generalissimo (it isn’t clear of what nationality, possibly Chinese), and Bienvenido “Ben” or “Benny” San Pablo, the grandson of a manong (Filipino nationality). Olie and Ben have a son, who they name Malcolm, after Malcolm X. They are both revolutionaries, although their exact roles in any sort of red movement and their ideologies are never made clear. One day, about a year after Malcolm is born, four men try to mug Olivia, but she runs away. The men, who are from the police of the Red Squad, break into Olivia and Ben’s house after finding their address in an address book they steal from another woman they mug. Ben escapes with Malcolm. It is revealed that Olivia has ovarian cancer, and she dies.

Throughout the chapter, Olie and Ben constantly make fun of each other and insult each other.


  1. “Ben pondered the constant warfare within his mind, the hidden mines that seemed to explode at every venture made through that dark labyrinth. Had not his heroes, Lenin and Marx, already cleared a path to light? Why was it, then, that his vision could only navigate through the clarity of a white opiate?” (297)
  2. “But she said: I have anticipated the end of the story without first imparting the beginning. Knowing the story’s end does not necessarily imply completion or knowledge, for if many endings are possible, so also are many beginnings… stories may turn and turn again.” (301)


  1. What does the first quote say about the motives and beliefs of a revolutionary?
  2. Why is the second quote, the ending paragraph of this chapter, about a story rather than a history? What does this say about this book as a representation of history?

2: Malcolm X at Bandung


The quotes in this chapter are all from the Final Communiqué at Bandung and Malcolm X.

Ben first sees Olivia when she gives a presentation at an event, and Olivia first sees Ben when he presents at a similar event. The events are both some sort of conference about the conditions of the working class. Ben is very interested by Olivia and he tries hard to meet her in person. He has his roommate find out more about her, and he eventually finds himself sitting next to her at a showing of One Fourth of Humanity: The China Story by Edgar Snow. Olivia acts very condescendingly towards him and gives him her copy of the Edgar Snow book to read, which he accepts without revealing that he has already read it – he wants to see her notes. Ben and Olivia keep running into each other. Karl Kang, a character who reappears later in this section, is introduced at a meeting. Ben takes a road trip to Montreal with his friend Macario Amado to attend a conference, and it so happens that Olivia is driving them.

Historical Background:

Bandung was a meeting of non-white governments, at which they issued a Final Communique demanding certain rights.


  1. “She ignored him, as if he were a mere working peon.” (311)


  1. What do you make of Olivia’s attitude? What does the quote say about the “equality” of a communist revolution?
  2. How do the quotes add to this chapter?

3: What Is to Be Done?


This chapter is further broken up into “Study Groups,” each of which poses a question before continuing with the story.

The plot is not quite linear. The sections alternate between recounting the journey to Montreal and showing dialogue between Olivia, Ben, and Karl Kang, where they debate the “Study Group” question, with Karl acting as a mediator. At the conference, Olivia and Ben support the opposition to American intervention in Vietnam, although it does not seem like the conference actually accomplishes much. When it’s time to leave, Macario stays behind to stay with a girl he met. Olivia and Ben drive back to California together. Along the way, they acknowledge their feelings for each other.


  1. “…Only to discover that the exchange of one’s labor in the form of a coin is at the center of the meaning of our lives.” (323)


  1. What is the purpose of the “Study Group” questions?
  2. Does the quote give accurate analysis of the meaning of our lives?

4: In Practice


This chapter has some sections which are entitled “Revolutionary Woman #__ -- Code Name: ______” The code name of the women is always taken from the quote that begins the section. All of the women are mistreated in some way by capitalist society, being fired from their jobs or making very little money. It is stated that several of these women are ethnic, although it is possible that some are white.

It is also revealed that Olivia stole her father’s car and left her (very rich) family after traveling to Mississippi and getting a Negro boyfriend who was not accepted by her family.


  1. “Women is the nigger of the world. –Yoko Ono” (335)


  1. What does this chapter say about the state of women in America?
  2. How do the code names add to this chapter?

5: On Colonialism


Ben’s past and his father’s story are described. Ben’s mother was white, which caused Ben’s father a lot of self-doubt. Ben does not have a close relationship with his father and has little respect for him. Ben’s father fought in the Philippines during the Second World War and then became a drunk. He returned to the Philippines at the end of his life and built a church after hallucinating his dead mother.

Some of Karl Kang’s life is also described. Karl marries a woman named Delia who later leaves him.


  1. “By his senior year in high school, Ben realized that no manner of assimilation or integration would erase his dark features.” (338)


  1. There seems to be a recurring plot line of revolutionaries’ wives leaving them. Why?
  2. How does Ben’s father shape Ben’s future?
  3. How is the identity crisis of someone who is half Asian-American different from the identity crisis of someone who is full Asian-American?

6: A Romance for Humanity


Each section of this chapter begins with a quote by Imelda Marcos, the First Lady of the Philippines.

There are two story lines. Ben and Olivia get married at the I Hotel. There are also several sections which appear to be taken from one or more speeches given by Ferdinand Marcos, the president of the Philippines, in which he ultimately declares martial law because several protesters have been causing disorder in the Philippines.

Historical Background:

Ferdinand Marcos was elected President in 1965 and declared martial law in 1972 when the Communist opposition to his regime began to grow. Under martial law, civil liberties were suspended and the government had the power to arrest and jail their opposition, as well as the ability to appoint members. Although martial law was lifted in 1981, Marcos remained President and kept his power to jail any opposition. He was eventually forced out of office in 1986.

Imelda Marcos, the wife of Ferdinand Marcos, led a very extravagant lifestyle while her husband was in power. She held several political positions while her husband was in power and remained in politics after her husband was forced out of office.


  1. “Bakit mayroong mga Pilipino … nag-aanak ng kamatis.” (Imelda Marcos, 351) translates to: “Why are some Filipinos slanderous of the President and First Lady? Don’t they know that we are the father and mother of the Philippines? If the father is a sweet potato and the mother is a sweet potato, then the Filipinos are sweet potatoes! Sweet potatoes are not bred from tomatoes.”
  2. “Daig ko pa si Cinderella.” (Imelda Marcos, 357) translates to: “I defeated Cinderella.”


  1. How are Olivia and Ben related to the Filipino government – why are these two stories told concurrently?
  2. What is the significance of the quotes by Imelda Marcos?

7: National Liberation


Ben travels to Cuba, where he finds a great respect for the love of country that he sees in the Cubans. He admires the Cuban revolution. Olivia, Ben, and Karl are trying to organize the revolutionaries to take some course of action. It seems that Olivia and Ben want to unite the entire working class, regardless of race. Angela Davis, a Communist political activist who was quoted in Chapter 4, is invited to talk. Angela leaves when Olivia and Aiko (who has been in some of the previous books) can’t agree on what sort of meeting to hold. The chapter ends with Olivia giving birth to a son, who is named Malcolm.


  1. “Even if you mobilize the working class, they don’t give a damn about the Third World or blacks, much less Asians. It may take many years, most likely not in our lifetimes.” (Karl Kang, 362)


  1. How does this chapter show the clashes of the various revolutionary ideals?

8: Death of a Revolutionary


Ben struggles to compose some sort of document that will help two revolutionary groups merge together. There is a conversation between two people, one of whom is Olivia, and the other of whom is unidentified, but may be Ben. They are talking about a woman who used to be part of the revolutionary group who got purged because she was a “liability” and believed to be a spy. The woman is referred to as “Y,” and she may be Yuri or Yoko from Chapter 4. Olivia believes that it was unfair to purge Y, but the other person says that it was the right thing to do at the time. Olivia dies after injecting herself with something – her death may have been a suicide since she was already dying of cancer. She makes Ben promise to stop using drugs for Malcolm’s sake.


  1. “When it’s all said and done, they can change the history… They’ll only remember that we purged people, that Y died, that I was a fucking bitch.” (Olivia, 368)


  1. What does the quote say about history in general? About this story as an accurate representation of history?

1973 by Hasan

1974 by Noah

1974 by Noah

Noah Fox

1974: I-Migrant Hotel

1: Grass Roots

There are two main characters featured in this novella: Felix and Macario. Felix is a resident of the I-hotel and Macario is the VP of the I-hotel tenants’ association. Felix educates students about the unionized grape pickers in California. He reminisces about his early years spent picking crops and organizing before WWII. He fights to get union contracts in each agricultural region of the west coast.

“what makes men men are women” 431

If they became unionized what would happen to them, would they have benefits? Would they become part of the successful Filipinos who moved out to Daly City?

2: Halo-Halo

Several years later Macario and Felix discuss strikes 5 years earlier. They talked about how Cesar Chavez tried to stage a hunger strike. The two mention in conversation how Macario wanted to create a third world college and that when that failed he returned to the idea of helping out farmhands. Felix returns to see the I-hotel. At a mayoral event in 1969 commemorating the San Francisco earthquake Macario and his crew rush the stage to protest the closing of the I-hotel. Felix talks with one of the other residents about the old days when they would romance girls all up and down the west coast and about how now they all live in $50/month rooms in the hotel. The entire chapter is focused on past events, and the reader is unsure what is currently going on in Felix and Macario’s lives.

“How come Magellan comes to bother folks like us in faraway lands? It’s to make their food taste better” 441

3: Pig Roast

Macario brings the ashes of a former hotel resident, Pio, who died in a fire. The other residents of the Hotel think that the ghost of Pio is still residing in the building, haunting them. The residents decide to roast a pig, and an argument breaks out among them about the best recipe; Hawaiian or Pinoy. Eventually they decide to cook two pigs, one in each style and have a competition. They go off into the country to buy the two pigs. They fleetingly decide to go hunting instead, but when this proves fruitless they purchase two slaughtered hogs. The two pigs are roasted in a park habituated by vagrants, the Pinoy pig eventually catches fire but the fire department hoses it down. The competition is forgotten and both groups enjoy the meals.

“’Special pepper and herb seasoning,’ I say “‘Trust me’” 452

Is the pig roasting competition a metaphor for rivalry between different groups in the hotel, or an effort to regain cultural knowledge?

Why did the residents pour Pio’s ashes on the Pig?

4: Empty Soup

Abra’s twins are named Emilio and Andrea after two Philippine nationalists. Abra explains how her mother is still in the Philippines but cannot visit because of the current political situation there. Abra describes a scene where she was accosted by soldiers while boarding a plane out of the Philippines. The two, Felix and Abra make a soup that contains nothing but hot water for the twins. Abra gets a job working in a factory and tries to organize the workers into the union. The members of the hotel decide to create a long list of opposite words that they could turn into a poem. Felix tries to have sex with Abra and it is revealed that she is a lesbian. Felix finally makes a soup with real ingredients.

“I’m telling you this because I think you’re my friend and like my father.” 468

What is the true nature of Abra’s and Felix’s relationship?

5: Rations

Macario, Joe and Felix all go to a strip club. They talk about the old days, in which they both fought in the US army. Joe explains how he ended up fighting with guerillas. He describes the loss of Bataan to Macario. It is revealed that Joe was a war hero and liberated American POWs. Later, Abra has an altercation with Joe where she tries to get him to improve the conditions of the Hotel. It is revealed that Joe has been squirrelling away money from the residents and they kick him out. The explanation is that his suffering during the war has made him self-centered.

“We gonna figure this out today, but we got to write it down” 464

What does Joe’s leaving mean about the ability of the I-hotel residents to organize?

6:Ng Ka Py

One of Felix’s friends, Wen introduces Felix to a bunch of literature. Felix has a special drink of his own creation that he brews and claims to have given to Steinbeck to help him write. Wen is a professor at SF state. Macario and Felix hang out and leave Macario’s newly renovated car in Daly City, where most of the Filipinos now live. The city is trying to obtain the I-hotel through eminent domain and the community is rallying to save it.

“ The rich got a problem, they can always sell it to another rich guy who needs that problem to solve another problem.” 481

This chapter continues the novella’s food theme. Why did the author choose this as a method to tell this portion of the movement?

I-Hotel 1976: Ai Hotel by Nathan

Written by Nathan Yuen

1:Devin & Yuri

Devin, a resident at the I-hotel, has made the best of his living quarters by renovating the little space he had in his room, lofting his bed, saturating his room with music through his eight track speakers. The sense of loneliness is expressed throughout this story. Devin writes to Yuri, the girl across the hall, writing poems. “He watches her leave. He watches her arrive, sometimes with a guy. Always a different guy. A buff movement type who wears his jacket and boots casually like his cool masculinity. Sometimes the guy is there for many days, smell of pot and cigarettes seeping from under the door.”(Pg 536) As Devin tries to comfort Yuri after each breakup, he returns unsuccessful and writes more to her. Sometimes she would show up at his loft, where they talked about Love’s Body in great discussion. Yuri comments on how Devin is sweet and smart and then tells him she got to go to study group where they all think she’s stupid. She invites him to come along, commenting on all his books in his room and how he is smart. One day he finds her door ajar, and makes an excuse, “thinking” that she is calling him in. He walks in and sees her dead body lying on her bed, the room smelling strongly of sweat, beer, garlic and sex. He finds a notebook under her pillow, where he finds lists of things in her life. He can’t find his name in anywhere, which he then proceeds to grab her lifeless body, run out into the corridor screaming.

• “Freedom is poetry, he tells her, freedom is fire.”—Pg 537

• What does the quote “Freedom is poetry, he tells her, freedom is fire.” Mean?
• What is the significance of his reading her journal before calling for help?
• What was the pill that she popped into her mouth?

2: Virgilio & Momo

This part is chopped up into the actual storyline, continuing from the previous part, Devin and Yuri, an interview uses a recorder and the dialogue is intertwined into this chapter. Devin is interviewing Manong Virgilio. It talked about how Devin went to Langley because he went crazy for a while after Yuri’s death. Manong Virgilio starts by telling how he was hearing the voice of Momo, “ [his] beautiful peach girl.” Momo was a girl he met working for her father in Central Valley. They were lovers who interacted sexually multiple times a day. Her future was planned out by her father: go back to Japan to get an education and a Japanese husband. Then she got pregnant, and although Manong didn't stop loving her, she was in pain. One day he finds her hanging, and cuts her down but is too late. He then describes her body as if in a poem. All these recordings were in many different Asian dialects that, when given to professors, had a hard time translating. Manong continues to tell how he hears her voice and has to follow them but he knows she’s dead. The narrator then takes all the cassette tapes and plays all of them at the same time, causing the police to arrive.

• “Virgilio breathes in deep. So then I think Momo’s joking with me. How’s her feet dangling there? I got to climb up and cut the rope. I got to get her down. I got to get her neck straight. I got to make her speak to me. I got to hold her in my arms. I got to make her breathe. I got to feel her breathing on my neck. Got to taste her lips. Touch her breasts. Touch all her spots. Touch where she’s got the baby. No. No. No. How could she do this? How? How could she leave me behind like this? You know?”—Pg 543.

• What may have motivated Momo to commit suicide?
• Why was the professor part put into the story?
• Why is the underlying theme of this chapter so far filled with poetry?

3. Sophie & Egan
Arthur Ma is an artist, painting nudity in the basement of an abandoned fortune cookie factory. Sophie is his model and the women in the story. They talk about Arthur’s son Ethan and how they met on Telegraph at Moe’s reaching for the same book: The Tao of Love at the Spring Palace. She is also one of Arthur’s students from when he was at the Institute. We find out that Sophie is pregnant by Ethan, but Ethan is off at war. She isn’t keeping the baby though, and gave it up for adoption. At the end of the story we find out that Ethan is KIA (Killed In Action).

• “Sophie is Poetry.”—Pg 547
• “He rushes forward, creating a umbrella with his arms and shoulders as the entirely of the great arts of china, every porcelain vase and indeed landscape in book form, it topple around her.”— Pg 548
• What was it saying by “Taoism serves the matriarchy. The Confucian patriarch generates kids to build his kingdom. The Taoist matriarch generates energy to prolong life.”

4. Stony & Aiko

This chapter is about a group of monks. George comes in with a friend, sesshu, an artist from Japan, saying he needs a place to stay, except there is not much room in the place. It then switches into a prison cell in Soledad, California where stony writes a letter to Aiko. Throughout this chapter, the interaction between four Japanese people, sesshu, Stony, Aiko and Daruma, take place, talking about their sexual desires along with cooking Japanese cuisine

• “His chest pounds with the pride of eight hundred million people.”—pg. 558

Why are Japanese people advocating for Chinese communism?

1975: Internationale Hotel

1975: Internationale Hotel

Guide by Sarah Neville
Edited by Bhushan


1: Arthur Hama—Liberty

Coit Mural

The events of the novella open at the Coit Tower, originally painted with murals in the 1930s, but defamed in the 1950s by Communist paintings. Now, in 1974, Estelle takes her sons Sen and Harry to the Coit Tower and tells them stories of how she met their father, Art. The murals in the Tower lead to flashbacks of Estelle and Art’s story.

Art and Estelle were both Communists, artists, and protesters in 1950s San Francisco. Estelle often bailed protesters out of jail, including Art. They worked together painting in the Coit Tower and got married. Although Estelle was white, she joined Art, who was Japanese, when he was sent to an internment camp.

(More images of the Coit Tower murals here and here.)

2: Estelle Hama—Equality

Estelle is having an art exhibition of all her wartime work, especially paintings and drawings she created in the internment camp. Sen and Harry were mainly responsible for putting the exhibit together.

During the chapter, flashbacks come through the paintings,. These include Sen’s birth and an incident where Estelle feared an American guard was going to shoot her and the infant Sen.

At the end of the chapter, her friend Tom comes up to her and asks her to help bail a young sansei out of jail; Estelle says she will help. Harry meets a girl and takes her out on a date.

3: Sen Hama—Fraternity

Harry and Estelle are arguing about Stalin and the role of fiction as they work on a mural on the outside of the I-Hotel.

Previously, Harry dated a girl he had met at Estelle’s exhibit. She was a reporter and wrote fiction; Estelle disapproves of all types of fiction, and this tension led to she and Harry’s breakup.

Sen reminisces about his childhood; between the fact that he was shy and his mother was a communist, he had a hard time making friends when he was young. He also thinks about a communist ex-girlfriend, and a run-in with a cop when he had a new motorcycle.

4: Harry Hama—Humanity

Harry is leading a protest at the San Francisco office for the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, trying to get the Rehabilitation Act passed. They have a sit-in which goes on for 28 days. He befriends a blind girl named Clara and they quickly fall in love.

In between these main events are flashbacks to when Harry visited the site of the internment camp Tule Lake. Sen comes and they go on a motorcycle ride, but they crash and Sen dies. Later, Harry tries to kill himself.

In the end of the novella, after the success of the San Francisco sit-in, Harry is now working for handicap accessibility in San Diego.


  • 1930s: Estelle meets Art in New York; she follows him to San Francisco
  • She bails him out of jail
  • They get married
  • Japanese internment camps
  • Sen is born
  • They are released from camp; Art goes to war until the atomic bombs are dropped on Japan
  • 1949: Harry has just been born; Art visits Hiroshima and sees the devastation
  • 1951: Art leaves the family for Japan
  • He meets another woman and does not return; Estelle tells everyone he has died
  • 1974: Art dies; main events of the novella begin


  • Estelle Hama: Daughter of Russian emigres, wife of Art Hama. Artist, Stalinist.
  • Arthur “Art” Hama: Nisei (second-generation Japanese American). Martial artist, Communist, anti-imperialist. After he witnesses the Hiroshima devastation, he starts fighting against nuclear weapon use. Goes to Japan in 1951, dies in 1975.
  • Sen Hama: Estelle and Art’s oldest son. He is introspective and shy, and as an artist especially likes working with silkscreens.
  • Harry Hama: Sen's brother. He uses a wheelchair, is 25 years old, and much more extroverted than his brother. He stages protests for rights for people with physical disabilities.


  • How do the titles of the four chapters (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, Humanity) relate to their contents?
  • What is the cover page of the novella (page 491) illustrating and why?
  • Why was this novella named Internationale Hotel?
  • Each chapter opens with a different historical situation that often seems disconnected with the events in the chapter. What is the significance of each?
    • Chapter 1: Vladivostok
    • Chapter 2: House Un-American Activities Committee
    • Chapter 3: Bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence
    • Chapter 4: Fidel Castro's 1977 visit to Moscow
  • Each chapter uses flashbacks to tell the story's main content. Discuss the different ways each chapter has of triggering the flashbacks. (The murals, Estelle's paintings...)
  • Discuss the symbolism of colors, especially white, in chapter 2. (Estelle's hair, the color of her hair going into her art, the word "hakujin.")

Language Notes

Rodo Shimbun

労働新聞 (roudou shinbun): This was a real Japanese communist newspaper in San Francisco. The name translates to "Labor Newspaper."

Interestingly, the Korean translation of 勞動新聞 is what today’s official newspaper of North Korea is named: 로동신문 (Rodong Sinmun).


白人: White person.

Keto baba

Probably 毛唐 (ketou) and 婆 (baba): dirty foreigner and old woman.

Nisei, sansei

二世: Nisei refers to a second-generation Japanese American, the child of Japanese immigrants.

三世: Sansei is third-generation, the grandchild of immigrants.

1977 by Sarah

1977 by Sarah Manimalethu

1977: I-Hotel

I. And this will conclude our transmission from the International Hotel

Overview: In this chapter, the reader is introduced to the somewhat less-recognizable people who frequent the I-Hotel. We meet Mr. Chang, who wires the I-Hotel for sound transmission, Judy Eng who takes photos of protests and events staged in/around the hotel, Arthur Ma, the newscaster who commentates on the I-Hotel's final protest against eviction on August 3, 1977. Told in the form of Arthur's radio transmission, this chapter tells the bloody and violent story of the Hotel's final protest, which ends in the early morning with the final tenants, now homeless and injured, streaming forward from the Hotel. The Hotel is set to be demolished and the site to be sold.

Quote: "I am crippled, and I am deaf, and I am very old. I am alone here, and they put me in the street. I want freedom, the principle of American democracy in the richest country in the world. Do you think our mayor has a place for me? No. No. Because I was happy here". (Yamashita 586).

Question: Is it possible to accurately assess the role played by the I-Hotel in the lives of its young members, or is it familiar but inexplicable, like the origins of Mr. Chang, Judy Eng and Arthur Ma?

II. Where will you live when you get old?

Overview: This chapter is a reflection on the night of August 3, 1977 from the point of view of someone called to be a part of the human barricade during the protests. This chapter brings to light the unfairness of the life of a boarding-house resident in San Francisco during the time.

Quotes: "Even if we were expected to build, maintain, clean, and service these posts, we weren't expected to live anywhere nearby. Be at work promptly at eight a.m., but please, please disappear by five p.m." (Yamashita 591).

"And yes, we knew that each room was a tiny home, a place of final refuge for a lifetime of work, and that the room, though housed by a hotel, was still a home" (Yamashita 592).

Question: Why is the life of a migrant worker suited to that of a low-rent boarding house?

III. We won't move

Overview: This chapter is told from the point of view of a reminiscent middle-aged former frequenter of the I-Hotel. The speaker conveys the idea that the fervor with which he defended the subversive agenda of the I-Hotel flagged along with his youth, but how, on August 3, 1977, when it really came down to it, all of the people he knew rose to action with the I-Hotel upon seeing the removal of the elderly tenants, which brought back a flood of memories and devotion.

Quote: "And ridiculously, we stood with them and challenged the great machine as it plunged forward, shoving bricks and mortar and steel rods into a gaping, but it was too late" (Yamashita 596).

Question: Why was it too late for the rebellion of the I-Hotel? How did Capitalism affect the movement?

IV. The people united will never be defeated

Overview: The four entrances and their specific meanings are discussed in this chapter. From the north side, one would pass through bookshops and the Asian Community center. Through the central entrance, one might come across leaders of Asian-American community unions and protest groups. Coming in from the south, you will likely pass through the dark rooms and creative spaces of community members. Entering through the door of the Chinese Progressive Association, one would witness idyllic scenes and literature of China, and of Mao. All of the I-Hotel frequenters seem to possess their own unique agenda for progression and toward achieving a general sense of open-mindedness.

Quotes: "On the face of it, we were all radical activist revolutionaries, and we were all united to defeat a capitalist-imperialist system of greed" (Yamashita 599).

"An alphabet soup of punching youth, kicking and pushing, beating out the long years, months, and days of our frustrations, strangling the deep disappointment of our failure, finally spilling the blood we could not in nonviolent civil disobedience" (Yamashita 601).

Question: By possessing such a strong revolutionary spirit, do the tenants and supporters of the I-Hotel do themselves a disservice?

V. Do you speak English?

Overview: After the fall of the I-Hotel, gunshots are fired into a Chinese restaurant nearby. Told from the perspective of someone in attendance, this chapter conveys that the sense of urgency with which the I-Hotel was defended has decreased over time, also explaining the myriad pressures of being an immigrant, or newly American, that built up to cause the rage displayed the night of August 3, 1977.

Quote: "How many of us landed right here in the great City of San Francisco, merging our new lives with old lives, our new wave splashing against the last wave, encountering hte familiar along with the odd stink of the anachronistic and yet the bravura of tired experience and sacrifice?" (Yamashita 602).

Question: How was the shooting both a natural and unnatural conclusion to the violence of the fall of the I-Hotel?

VI. August 3, 1977

Overview: This shortest chapter of the novella briefly explains the passion with which the I-Hotel was both utilized and defended. The fall of the I-Hotel broke up alliances between many groups and robbed the Asian American youth of a certain amount of their subversive earnestness.

Quote: "To kiss the past and you good-bye, leaving the indelible spit of our DNA on still moist lips. Sweet. Sour. Salty. Bitter" (Yamashita 605).

Question: Did the I-Hotel represent too much unrest to be maintained? Was it fated to fall eventually?