The Paper Daughters of Chinatown: Adapted for Young Readers

Shadow Mountain. Apr. 2023. 240p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781639930944.
Gr 5 Up–Young Tien Fu is put on a boat from China to “Gold Mountain” (San Francisco) at six years of age to settle her father’s gambling debt. She thinks she is visiting her grandmother, but instead, everything is taken from her, including her name. Tien Fu must fight to survive. Sold into slavery, then bartered and sold again, she is tortured and trusts no one. Once she is rescued and brought to the San Francisco mission, she meets Dolly Cameron, who has arrived to teach sewing to the girls at the mission. Based on the true story of the adult bestselling novel by the same name, the adapted version includes topics, such as gambling, brothels, and opium usage, but doesn’t explain in detail what they are. Dolly attempts to rescue girls and young women from deplorable situations, while coming up against the slave owners who resort to violence and bombings to get the girls back. Tien Fu and the other girls are given new names in the United States, making them paper daughters without a home. “Tien Fu” means “heavenly blessing,” and the girl wonders if she can change who she is and grow up to be strong, brave, and independent. As the years go by, Tien Fu and Dolly grow closer, and Tien Fu becomes an interpreter and rescuer. Also included is information for teachers, reader questions and answers, and history about Chinese immigration in the 1800s. Heartbreakingly real, the story of Tien Fu can spark conversation about human trafficking, the many people who have been affected, and its existence today.
VERDICT A great choice for book clubs and fans of historical fiction.

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