Tuesday, September 08, 2020

112. The Paper Daughters of Chinatown

The Paper Daughters of Chinatown. Heather B. Moore. 2020. Shadow Mountain. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Donaldina Cameron leaned her head against the cool glass of the window as the train slowed to a stop, its whistle mimicking the call of a mournful dove—deep and melancholy—a fitting echo of her life over the past few years. With no husband, no employment, and no parents to watch over, she felt as stagnant as a warm pond on a lazy summer day.

Premise/plot: Based on a true story, The Paper Daughters of Chinatown is a must read. I'm not one to throw around the word must lightly or thoughtlessly. Nor am I one to toss around five star ratings. (Especially this year I've tried to be more mindful.) But this has to be one of the best books I've ever read...at least in the "based on a true story" category or sub-genre.

The book opens in 1895 and spans several decades as it follows the ministry of Donaldina Cameron as she serves as a teacher, rescuer, and guardian in San Francisco's Chinatown. She is trained to rescue young girls and young women--Chinese--that have been sold and trafficked. The Presbyterian Mission Home in which she serves faces much opposition. But their work changes lives.

“Rescued?” Dolly had questioned. “Yes,” Mrs. Browne said, lowering her voice, although only the birds and sunshine were within earshot, “from the brothels of Chinatown.” “Women and girls,” Mrs. Browne corrected. “Some of the girls are as young as eight or nine. They’re brought over from China by highbinders, promised a good life and marriage in America, yet the promises are lies. These young girls are sold as domestic slaves or forced into prostitution.”

Why the name Paper Daughters???
“The girls take on new identities in America, and their lives are controlled in every way. They’ve been reduced to what we call paper daughters. Without a home. Without care or love.” “Paper daughters,” Dolly whispered. These girls had become no more than documents with false names; they had given up not only their identities but their dignity.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved, loved, loved this one. It is easily one of the best books I've read this year. It is both sobering and inspiring. It is incredibly sad that humanity is so depraved that the selling of little girls is a recorded fact. But it is also incredibly uplifting that there are those willing to give their all to fight, fight, fight these wrongs. Dolly's life story is incredibly inspiring and beautiful. Her crown in heaven must be beautiful.

I know my review doesn't do the book justice. The book goes into incredible detail about the mission home, about the lives of those rescued, about the personal lives of the staff, etc. I just can't regurgitate that in my review. (That wouldn't be doing a service either.) Just know this is a beautifully compelling work.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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