Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang is set in the American West, and follows a kidnapped Chinese girl fighting personal, as well as institutional, racism during the Chinese Exclusion Act. Ms. Zhang is an American writer who was born in China.
- 336 pages
- Publisher : Flatiron Books
- Language : English
- ISBN-10 : 1250811783
I did not know what to expect from Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang, but what I got was a very powerful story. Books like this are an excellent way to learn about US history. I have read a few books about how we treated Chinese immigrants during that time (the graphic novel Escape to Gold Mountain was a memorable one), but I learned a lot more from this novel.
The history of racism and violence in the United States is often glanced over. My high-school history teacher used to say that “when you look at American history, you get a black eye”, as in being punched. It took me about a decade to realize just how right he was.
I also enjoyed how Ms. Zhang weaved magical realism, as well as an explanation of Chinese calligraphy. A fascinating read into what makes up the calligraphy symbols, and how the protagonist, Daiyu, interprets them.
This book was a globe-trotting adventure, going from China to the American West. There are certainly many interesting, and fascinating, characters throughout the novel.
I was surprised at Daiyu’s naivete, however. The novel seems to be written from an American optimistic viewpoint, where one expects things to work out all the time, and be surprised when they don’t. A novel about darkness and violence should embrace those aspects, but I felt the story constantly stopped short of going into the realm of the uncomfortable. Sadly, the story never really came together though, I always felt I Daiyu was missing “something” a
The writing, however, is skillful, as well as inspiring. I enjoyed the many fascinating details of Chinese life, as well as the racism and hardships they faced both in Chin and the American West.
When Daiyu was twelve years old girl in China, her parents disappear. Fearing for her safety, Daiyu’s grandmother assumed the role of a boy in an attempt to make her disappear in the city of Zhifu.
As Feng, the hardworking Daiyu got a job at Wang’s Calligraphy School. Even though she was hired to sweep the floors, she began to trace and learn calligraphy. One day, a strange man kidnapped Daiyu and held her captive for a year, teaching her English. After a year, Daiyu was smuggled into the United States packed in a bucket of coal.
In the United States, during the late 1800s, Daiyu faces even more challenges. Being put in a whorehouse, she manages an improbable escape, only to face the harsh realities and racism on the outside.
Zohar — Man of la Book
Disclaimer: I this book for free.
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