I Hotel

A novel by Karen Tei Yamashita, with art by Leland Wong and Sina Grace

June 1, 2010 • 6 x 9 • 640 pages • 978-1-56689-239-1

A tour de force through America’s most transformative decade.

Dazzling and ambitious, this hip, multivoiced fusion of prose, playwriting, graphic art, and philosophy spins an epic tale of America’s struggle for civil rights as it played out in San Francisco’s Chinatown from 1968-1977. As Yamashita’s motley cast of students, laborers, artists, revolutionaries, and provocateurs make their way through the history of the day, their stories come to define the very heart of the American experience.

About the Author

Karen Tei Yamashita is the author of Letters to Memory, Through the Arc of the Rain Forest, Brazil-Maru, Tropic of Orange, Circle K Cycles, I Hotel, and Anime Wong, all published by Coffee House Press. I Hotel was selected as a finalist for the National Book Award and awarded the California Book Award, the American Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association Award, and the Association for Asian American Studies Book Award. She has been a US Artists Ford Foundation Fellow and co-holder of the University of California Presidential Chair for Feminist & Critical Race & Ethnic Studies. She is currently Professor Emeritus of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz.


“[I Hotel is] one of my favorite books of all time.” —Jeff VanderMeer, The Week

“As original as it is political, as hilarious as it is heartbreaking, I Hotel is the result of a decade of research and writing that included more than 150 personal interviews. . . . [and] will be dog-eared and underlined and assigned to college reading lists for generations. . . . In the end, the way I Hotel accounts for the Asian American movement is both sweet and sour. And for all the losses Yamashita records, there are, we know, great achievements as well. High among them is this beautiful book.” Washington Post Book World

“[Yamashita] hasn’t gained the broad recognition she richly deserves.” Reader’s Digest

“As in her previous works, Yamashita incorporates satire and the surreal in prose that is playful yet knowing, fierce yet mournful, in a wildly multicultural landscape. . . . A passionate, bighearted novel.” San Francisco Chronicle

“Yamashita captures the fiery righteousness—and self-righteousness—of the civil-rights movement. . . . The complexity of the era that led to the birth of Asian America. It’s a glorious tone poem, a rich reminder of the multicultural, multifaceted past from which our city grows.” San Francisco Magazine

“It’s a stylistically wild ride, but it’s smart, funny and entrancing.” —NPR

“The breadth of I Hotel’s embrace is encyclopedic and its effect is kaleidoscopic. It wants to inform and dazzle us on the confusions and conclusions on the question of culture and assimilation.” Chicago Tribune

“A multiform swirl of a novel about a decade in the life of San Francisco’s Chinatown and, by extension, the Asian experience in America. . . . With delightful plays of voice and structure, this is literary fiction at an adventurous, experimental high point.” Kirkus

“Exuberant, irreverent, passionately researched. . . . Yamashita’s colossal novel of the dawn of Asian American culture is the literary equivalent of an intricate and vibrant street mural depicting a clamorous and righteous era of protest and creativity.” Booklist, starred review

“Magnificent. . . . Intriguing.” Library Journal

“Stunningly complete. . . . Yamashita accomplishes a dynamic feat of mimesis by throwing together achingly personal stories of lovers, old men, and orphaned children; able synopses of historical events and social upheaval. . . . This powerful, deeply felt, and impeccably researched fiction is irresistibly evocative.” Publishers Weeklystarred review

“[Yamashita’s] novel is breathtaking in its scope and its energy and innovation make it a good fit with the exciting and transformative time period that it covers. . . . I Hotel demonstrates how complicated and finally irreducible history is—the many voices and perspectives it comprises, the divergent and winding paths it takes, the way it confounds conventional narrative. Yamashita celebrates this complexity, and she’s such a deft storyteller that you’ll end up celebrating it with her.” Women’s Review of Books

“Huge, messy, and frantically fun, I Hotel offers a very believable panorama of life at this time. . . . The portraits of these early generation Asian Americans . . . are quite moving and conveyed without sentimentality. It’s an impressive accomplishment from an author who continues to push the boundaries of innovative fiction.” Rain Taxi

“One of the things that is so amazing about Karen Tei Yamashita’s most recent novel, I Hotel, is that she not only retrieves the sad beauty of a particularly fraught period of a particularly squalid community —Asian Americans in San Francisco during the 1960s-70s — but that she does so in a way that is also exhilarating, celebratory. . . . Which is why we need novels like I Hotel: to patiently help the world remember itself.” American Book Review

“Brilliant. . . . [Yamashita’s] ambition is achieved with efficiency, showmanship and wit. . . . A surgically deft depiction of the political entwined with the personal. . . . Yamashita’s book recalls what art is for: ‘To resist death and dementia . . . To kiss . . . you good-bye, leaving the indelible spit of our DNA on still moist lips. Sweet. Sour. Salty. Bitter.’ In other words, I Hotel’s complex taste lingers and haunts, like something alive.” Star Tribune

I Hotel, in a genre all its own somewhere between historical fiction and creative nonfiction, is an inventive attempt to re-present such an era in a way that is simultaneously heuristic and available to the imaginations of the young.” Boom

I Hotel is a careful, considerate blend of fact and fiction, parody and pastiche; the book contains so many allusions to people, places, and things that comprised one of America’s most transformational times that it bears comparison to such canonical works as John Dos Passos’ U.S.A. trilogy, and, in many ways, deserves to be called an encyclopedic text.” Fiction Writers Review

“Karen [Yamashita] is playful and experimental; she loves spectacle and cultural complications.” Vida: Women in Literary Arts

I Hotel is an amazing literary accomplishment and one of the most pleasurable reading experiences I have ever had. I believe it stands on the same plane of accomplishment as Roberto Bolaño’s Savage Detectives and Edward P. Jones’s The Known World—an amazing literary accomplishment and a brave and bold act of publishing.” —Paul Yamazaki, City Lights Booksellers

I Hotel is an explosive site, a profound metaphor and jazzy, epic novel rolled into one. Karen Tei Yamashita chronicles the colliding arts and social movements in the Bay Area of the wayward ’70s with fierce intelligence, humor and empathy.” —Jessica Hagedorn