February 20, 2015

The Chinese in North America

Escape to Gold Mountain: A Graphic History of the Chinese in North America
by David H.T. Wong

Wong attempts to encapsulate the story of Chinese immigration in his first graphic novel and succeeds admirably. His book covers over 200 years of struggle, with panels depicting the poverty and opium wars in China, the early immigrants, the railroad workers in both the United States and Canada, and the racism and discrimination the Chinese endured after the railways' completion. His artwork may be rough at times, but it serves the story well, especially in the darker moments. Readers will find the hostility and lynchings disturbing to read about, while the forced separations due to the Exclusion Acts and Head Tax will cause both pain and sorrow.

In his preface, Wong mentions that the fictional family in the novel is not his, but their story is based on true experiences. As well, real historical figures like Charles Crocker, Andrew Onderdonk, Sun Yat-sen, and Mackenzie King appear in the story. Wong defines what is real and what is not in his afterword and includes extensive notes and references for readers wanting to investigate further.

An excellent book suitable for ages 14 and up.

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