The journey from China to the United States and the experience on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay are fraught with anxiety and peril for 12-year-old Wang Lee.
In order to gain admittance, he takes the “paper son” name Fu Lee, taking the place of someone whose records had burnt in the 1906 earthquake and fire. If he does not pass the examination on Angel Island (the Ellis Island of the West), he will be returned to China. Like many hopeful emigrants, he has carefully memorized each small detail in a “coaching book”: the number of windows in “his” house, its location vis-à-vis neighbors and other minutiae of another family’s home in China. The entire experience is expensive and traumatic, and waiting in the barracks on Angel Island is tiresome, strange and frightening, all at once. To lose family, name and everything else that one knows takes a brave person, desperate for the opportunity that Gum Saam can provide. Fu Lee meets these demands in a book that clearly shows the boy and his fears and hopes. Ong’s paintings of place and persons make the journey, setting and experience come alive. Backmatter on Angel Island provides historical context.
An effective and empathetic depiction of the Angel Island experience. (Picture book. 8-12)