Title: Tales from Gold Mountain
Author: Paul Yee
Illustrator: Simon Ng
Publisher: Groundwood Books
Year: 2011 (paperback)
Concepts: immigration, gold rush, discrimination, scarcity, poverty, jobs, natural resources, human resources
Review: This collection of eight short stories conveys some of the heartaches, challenges, and joys experienced by Chinese immigrants to North America during the nineteenth century. These immigrants, often impoverished peasants in China who wanted to support their families, had left for the New World attracted by the promise of plentiful job opportunities. They came to the United States and Canada to search for gold during the gold rushes, help build the transcontinental railroads, work in primary industries such as farming and lumbering, and find odd jobs wherever there might be an opening.
Adding to the difficult nature of much of this work, Chinese immigrants often faced blatant discrimination and hostility from North American whites. Both countries passed laws restricting Chinese immigration, many Chinese lived segregated lives in Chinatowns, and Chinese workers often experienced more dangerous work conditions and lower pay than their white counterparts. These struggles led to some painful legacies, which for some were counterbalanced by happier times of prosperity, growing families, and new opportunities.
Paul Yee's short stories masterfully communicate these sorrows and hopes, with carefully-crafted prose and surprising conclusions that keep the pages turning. With its excellent writing and deeply symbolic illustrations, this book is highly recommended.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children