The Paper Daughters of Chinatown

Adapted for Young Readers from the Best-Selling Novel

by Chandra Sundeep
Cover picture of The Paper Daughters of Chinatown by Heather B. Moore and Allison Hong Merrill

The Paper Daughters of Chinatown by Heather B. Moore and Allison Hong Merrill is a Middle Grade adaptation of the original novel by the same author.

Set in Chinatown in the late 1890s, this novel is based on a true story of two women who spend their entire life in rescuing immigrant girls and women from human trafficking, slavery, and prostitution.

Tai Choi, a seven-year-old girl, leaves home with her father to visit her grandmother. The little child is excited about the journey and at the same time confused about her mother’s insistent crying. It is only later when the ship docks in San Francisco she comes to know the reason behind it. Her father has sold her into slavery to repay his gambling debts.

Arriving alone at Gold Mountain, she is scared and wants to go back to her home in China. The Tong, a highbinder agent using false papers, forces her to adopt a new name, Tien Fu Wu, thereby severing her connection with her past.

She works as a servant at a gambling den, then she is sold to an abusive shopkeeper, and finally makes her way to Occidental Board Presbyterian Mission Home, a place for orphaned Asian girls. There she meets Donaldina Cameron (Dolly), who teaches sewing to the rescued girls living in the home. Due to her experiences, Tien Fu Wu is initially unwilling to trust anyone, but with time, she learns to trust others, and develops a strong bond with Dolly.

With the help of a few other Chinese women and trustworthy Chinatown Squad officials, Dolly becomes involved in rescuing enslaved orphaned girls. While initially, Tien Fu Wu is a distant spectator, soon, she too becomes deeply involved in this mission. It is a mission filled with danger as the “buyers” are not willing to let go of their “property,” and despite the risks involved, Dolly and Tien dedicate their lives to this cause.

When I requested the ARC, I had no clue as to what the title signified. But after having read the story, I am able to appreciate it a lot and connect with it deeply.

This character-driven story is aptly supported by lucid narration. I have not read the original work, but this adaptation is perfectly suited for the target readers. The vocabulary and handling of sensitive topics like trafficking, child abuse, slavery, prostitution, etc, are age appropriate and are not too graphic in description.

It also gives detailed insight into Chinese culture, e.g., foot binding, as the accepted definition of beauty, poor economic conditions, and social disparity.

There are a few bits that seem unbelievable and sensationalised, but that doesn’t dampen the overall tone of the book.

Thanks to Shadow Mountain Publishing via NetGalley for the opportunity to read an ARC of this novel. All opinions expressed are my own.

The Paper Daughters of Chinatown is an informative, powerful, and inspiring story. Readers who like historical fiction and true stories will enjoy this book a lot. It is a good resource for creating awareness of a relatively unknown aspect of history.

Wordsopedia Rating 4.4/5

Title: The Paper Daughters of Chinatown Author: Heather B. Moore; Allison Hong Merrill
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing Publication date: 11 April 2023
Genre: Fiction—Historical, Children’s Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781639930944 No. of Pages: 240

Buy your copy here on Amazon

About the authors

Heather B. Moore is a USA Today bestselling author of more than ninety publications. Heather writes primarily historical and #herstory fiction about the humanity and heroism of the everyday person. Publishing in a breadth of genres, Heather dives into the hearts and souls of her characters, meshing her love of research with her love of storytelling.

Get in touch with the author on her website.

Allison Hong Merrill was born and raised in Taiwan and arrived in the U.S. at twenty-two as a university student. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and writes in both Chinese and English, both fiction and nonfiction. Her work appears in The New York Times and has won both national and international literary awards. Her debut memoir, Ninety-Nine Fire Hoopslaunched in September 2021 and continues to win book awards.

Get in touch with the author on her website.

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