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Asian Pacific American Lit. #2

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Yep, Laurence. Dragonwings. New York. Harper Trophy,1976. Reissued 1989. ISBN: 0-06-440085-9.

 

 

Laurence Yep states in the Afterward, “I wanted to show that Chinese-Americans are human beings upon whom America has had a unique effect.  I have tried to do this by seeing America through the eyes of a recently arrived Chinese boy, and by presenting the struggles of his father in following his dream.” (p. 248)  He accomplishes this and more in his novel.

Dragonwings is a fiction historical novel appropriate for students in grades 4th through 7th.  It is the story of a Chinese-American boy, Moon Shadow, in San Francisco, California. Moon Shadow comes to America in 1903 at the age of 7 to reunite with his father.  At first they live with The Company, a group of relative men who own a laundry, but because of certain events that take place they are forced to go live among the demons (whites).  During that time they become good friends with Miss Whitlaw and Robin, two demonesses (white women), but again they have to part with good friends.  This time because the earthquake of 1906 destroyed everything.  Moon Shadow and his father, Wind Rider, decide to live on their own.  Wind Rider has a dream; a dream to build an aircraft and to fly. 

“Yep draws heavily on his own heritage, but also includes figures such as Teddy Roosevelt and the Wright Brothers, and historic events such as the San Francisco Earthquake. The result is a heartwarming story set in a familiar time and place, but told from a new perspective.” –School Library Journal

The novel is enriched with historical facts as well as cultural content that allow the reader to view the characters as real life people that experience love, happiness, loyalty, suffering, and betrayal as they try to survive in a land that is hostile to them.  During his arrival Moon Shadow is terrified of Americans because he has learned to regard them as demons.  However, as he adjusts to life in America, he realizes that demons are just regular people.  There are some who are bad and some who are good.  Through Mrs. Whitlaw and Robin’s friendship Moon Shadow and his father learn many things about the way Americans think.  Also, they are able to explain many of their own principles and convictions to them.     

This book is an excellent source to study the experience of Chinese immigration to the United States at the beginning of the 1900s.  A teacher may ask students if they think the novel gives a balanced portrayal of both whites and Chinese.  The students can explain their opinion either by writing an essay or creating a presentation for the class.

 

Here are some awards received by Dragonwings as presented by Forbes Book Club:

1976 Newbery Honor Book
Notable Children's Books of 1971?1975 (ALA)
1976 Boston Globe, Horn Book Award Honor Book for Fiction
1976 Fanfare Honor List (The Horn Book)
"Best of the Best" Children's Books 1978 (SLJ)
Outstanding Children's Books of 1975 (NYT)
1976 Children's Book Award (IRA)
Children's Choices for 1976 (IRA/CBC)
Notable 1975 Children's Trade Books in Social Studies (NCSS/CBC)
1976 Carter G. Woodson Award (NCSS)
1976 Jane Addams Children's Book Award Honor Book
1979 Lewis Carroll Shelf Award
Children's Books of 1975 (Library of Congress)
1979 Books for the Teen Age (NY Public Library)
1995 Phoenix Award (Children's Literature Association)

 

Reference:

Forbes Book Club. At http://www.forbesbookclub.com/bookpage.asp?prod_cd=I07OF.  Forbes.com, 2003. Retrieved on July 20, 2005.

 

Wysocki, Barbara, Review from School Library Journal. At http://www.naturalskincare.ws/stuff-0064400859.html.  Cahners Business Information, Inc.  2000.  Retrieved on July 20, 2005.