Another book I have no idea how it appeared on my To Be Read Pile. Probably through the deceased estate. The man was well read in the classics and many other books recommended for me at uni. Also well read in multiple languages. I only kept the English ones that appealed, and what appealed ten years ago might not appeal to me now.
I’m not going to lie, this book was a struggle. There are probably a couple of reasons. I’m not familiar with the culture being depicted. Yes, I have had Chinese friends over the years, but they tend to be more westernised when they’re around me so I don’t pick up much of their culture. Are they culture switching for me or is it automatic? I really don’t know.
Some of the journeys depicted in this book are really hard to understand. Parts of them I had to read more than once in order to try and understand them. There was a lot of blackbirding going on. People coerced from one country to work as virtual slaves in another doing really hard work. In this case, men coerced by the promise of good money for work and then expected to clear land using a machete, a saw, an axe and a pickaxe. For that they were paid peanuts, after their board and lodging was deducted. I’d heard about this and found it really challenging to read about it. I felt I was actually there beside the Great Grandfather, Bak Soong.
The racism inherent in this book made it hard to read. There’s one section which details how this racism worked using the laws of the United States. The three China Men in this book find emigrate to the United States, some legally, some illegally. We’re given the year and the law that pertains to these China Men. It’s a good illustration of what laws were being applied specially to the Chinese at the time, but also quite horrifying.
Another thing that made this a hard read is that it has a fair base in real life. Kingston’s family has actually lived a lot of these events. It gave her the advantage that she knew some of it first hand. I just find non-fiction a little challenging as the narrative works differently. My brain is looking for a narrative such as you find in a fiction novel and when that isn’t there I just find it takes more time to read.
Despite all of this I made it through to the end. Not an easy read, but a captivating one. I’m really glad I picked it up and even more so that I finished it. I feel as if I’ve learned some things, reduced the holes in my ignorance. That can only be a good thing.
If you’d like to look at the book here is an affiliate link. I’d like to thank the people who clicked on my links during the week. Seeing all those clicks made my day.