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Yep, Laurence. The traitor.

(Golden Mountain Chronicles: 1885.) HarperCollins. 310p. c2003. 0-06-027522-7. $16.99. J

Yep has continued here with the story of many generations of a Chinese immigrant family, the Young family. The most famous book in the series was written many years ago: Dragonwings, which takes place in 1903. Yep has gone back as far as 1849 and as far forward in time to 1995, with Thief of Hearts. Each novel stands alone, but considering them together as a family chronicle that parallels the experiences of many Chinese immigrants to the West Coast adds a great dimension to Yep's work.

The Traitor takes place in Wyoming, in the mines, in 1885 and is based on the historical event called the Rock Springs Massacre. Written historical accounts by Americans and Chinese provided Yep with the essence of his story. At least 25 Chinese workers were buried, and another 26 Chinese disappeared when the hatred of the town's white citizens was unleashed into violence.

In Yep's novel, a Chinese boy named Joe and a white boy named Michael become friends when they meet in a cave outside the town. The two boys take turns with the narrative, so we get the story from both perspectives. Michael is an outcast because his parents are not married, so he, like the Chinese, suffers from bullying and abuse. Michael's mother does laundry for a living, and other women who do laundry become some of the most vicious attackers in the massacre (based on historical fact); Michael and his mother are unusual for white people, more tolerant than most, and they in fact hide Joe and his father from the mob. It's an exciting book of two boys at odds with their own kind and with their worlds; in the end, they escape the small town and its prejudices and head away to new lives.
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Author:Rosser, Claire
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2003
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