The Dragon's Child: A Story of Angel Island

The Dragon's Child: A Story of Angel Island


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Did you want to go to America?
Pop: Sure. I didn’t have a choice. My father said I had to go. So I went.
Were you sad when you left your village?
Pop: Maybe a little . . . well, maybe a lot.

Ten-year-old Gim Lew Yep knows that he must leave his home in China and travel to America with the father who is a stranger to him. Gim Lew doesn’t want to leave behind everything that he’s ever known. But he is even more scared of disappointing his father. He uses his left hand, rather than the “correct” right hand; he stutters; and most of all, he worries about not passing the strict immigration test administered at Angel Island.

The Dragon’s Child is a touching portrait of a father and son and their unforgettable journey from China to the land of the Golden Mountain. It is based on actual conversations between two-time Newbery Honor author Laurence Yep and his father and on research on his family’s immigration history by his niece, Dr. Kathleen Yep.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062018151
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/13/2011
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 510,704
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Laurence Yep is the acclaimed author of more than sixty books for young people and a winner of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. His illustrious list of novels includes the Newbery Honor Books Dragonwings and Dragon's Gate; The Earth Dragon Awakes: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, a Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee; and The Dragon's Child: A Story of Angel Island, which he cowrote with his niece, Dr. Kathleen S. Yep, and was named a New York Public Library's "One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing" and a Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book.

Mr. Yep grew up in San Francisco, where he was born. He attended Marquette University, graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and received his PhD from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He lives in Pacific Grove, California, with his wife, the writer Joanne Ryder.

Dr. Kathleen S. Yep is an assistant professor of Asian American studies and sociology at Pitzer College, which is a member of the Claremont Colleges in Southern California. She received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley. This is her first book for children. She lives in San Gabriel, California.

Read an Excerpt

The Dragon's Child
A Story of Angel Island

Chapter One

The Secret

Question: What was life like in China?
Pop: When I was little, I used my left hand and not my right. So I got hit for using the wrong hand. And that kind of made me nervous, and when that happened I stuttered a little bit. That made people even madder.

March 7, 1922
Ninth day of the second month,
eleventh year of the Chinese Republic
Lung Hing Village, Southern China

My father was a dragon. Lung Gon was his name. And he came from a village of dragons.

But I wasn't the least bit like him.

When I forgot myself, I naturally used my left hand. I kept forgetting to use my right hand. That was the correct one.

There were a lot of practical reasons for me to use my right hand. For one thing, I wouldn't bump whoever sat next to me at the dinner table and make him drop his rice bowl. Some superstitious folk thought left-handed people were sneaky. A few even swore it brought bad luck when you used your left hand.

But when I used my right hand, I had trouble writing. My brushstrokes went all over the page. When I used my left hand, the words came out fine. Only I couldn't do that. I had to remind myself to use my right hand all the time.

The winter rains had let up, but the air still felt damp. Everyone felt drowsy that afternoon. The New Year's celebrations had tired our little village. Even my teacher, Uncle Jing, was droning more slowly than usual.

I thought it was safe to use my left hand to write with while Uncle Jing's back was turned. But then a fly buzzed around his head. When he twisted to swatit, he saw me.

I knew what would happen next. It was as sure to come as a sunrise, and as sure as our rooster crowing at that sunrise.

"You must always write with your right hand!" Uncle Jing scolded in his shrill voice. "You're the son and brother of Guests! Do you think any of them do such an awful thing?" He always taught with a bamboo rod in his hand. It began to twitch eagerly, like a dog's tail.

No one ever let me forget that I was the son of a Guest of the Golden Mountain—or America, as the people there called it.

Most of the time I spoke clearly. But when I got nervous, I stuttered sometimes. Before I recited a lesson, I always rehearsed it like an actor. And I had to keep telling myself to stay calm. However, I would get so worried that I stammered even more.

If I stuttered at school, my classmates would laugh and Uncle would get mad and hit me. If I did it at home, Mother would scold me. Sister would look disappointed and tell me to try harder.

I had finally gotten to meet my father two years earlier, when I was seven. He had brought my older brother Yuen home to get married. Father had told me at that time that I shouldn't stutter anymore. But it seemed the more I tried not to think about stammering, the more my tongue tripped. Even though my father and Yuen had gone back to America, I still tried to obey him.

"I'm s-s-sorry," I barely managed to say to Uncle. "I f-f-forgot."

The rest of the class rocked back and forth with laughter. Of all the students, I was the only pupil from my clan, even though the school was our village's. My brothers and cousins had all left to find work overseas. The five other students came from neighboring villages. Two of them didn't own desks, so they sat on the dirt floor.

"What did your father tell you about stuttering and using your left hand?" he huffed.

I didn't say anything. I didn't trust my tongue.

Uncle Jing answered his own question. "He'll blame me when you're the one being stubborn and willful. One stroke!" The bamboo tipped in a slow circle, as if Uncle was loosening up his arm. "Put out your hand."

I heard a commotion from one end of the village. Uncle and the rest of the class were too involved with anticipating the beating to notice.

Miserable, I extended my hand across the desk. Over many years, the wood had soaked up the fragrance of all the ink spilled on it. The desk belonged to my family. At the end of the term, old Dip Shew would have to carry it home to our house. He was a poor cousin we had hired to take care of our fields.

Uncle's fingers brushed the back of my neck. He was still used to reaching for a boy's queue. In the old days when the savage Manchus had taken over China, they made all Chinese males wear their hair in long queues. The queues were a symbol of the tails of the horses the Manchus had ridden when they conquered us. Now that the Manchus had been driven away, we didn't have to wear our hair long. Now there wasn't anything to grab.

I made the mistake of smiling.

"Five more for being insolent!" Uncle yelled.


The bamboo rod swished through the air. The pain lashed my hand, but I bit my lip. The other boys were grinning. I couldn't expect any sympathy from them. They always liked it when I got punished, even though I had never done anything to them. They disliked me because my family was rich from the money Father and my brothers sent home.


Uncle hit me even harder this time. I think he wanted to see tears.

I wouldn't give him the satisfaction.


My sister appeared in the doorway. "Excuse me," she said. Sister was eleven years older than me and had practically raised me; Mother had been busy with all our family affairs. "Father's home."

The Dragon's Child
A Story of Angel Island
. Copyright (c) by Laurence Yep . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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The Dragon's Child: A Story of Angel Island 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
shelf-employed on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Prolific writer, Laurence Yep and his niece, Dr. Kathleen S. Yep, are fortunate to have uncovered over 500 pages of historical documents relating to their family¿s immigration records. Children are fortunate that they have chosen to share this information in The Dragon¿s Child: A Story of Angel Island. The Dragon's Child, is written in the form of an interview of Yep Gim Lew, by the author, Laurence Yep. Each answer is followed by a first-person "flashback" to young Yep Gim Lew's past in 1922.QUESTION: Did you want to go to America?POP: Sure. I didn't have a choice. My father said I had to go. So I went."I had always known I would have to leave home. Our villages land was so poor that men in my clan always had to work elsewhere. My grandfather had been one of the first to cross the ocean to the Golden Mountain. Others went to different countries. For generations my clan had been like rice chaff, scattered in the wind all over the world."The book follows Yep Gim Lew's journey from his rural village in China to San Francisco, where he will become a Guest of the Golden Mountain. Full of documented information on the difficult path to immigration faced by Chinese immigrants in the era of "Chinese exclusion" laws, this is a wonderful resource for children learning about immigration. The immigration stories of Angel Island, "The Ellis Island of the West," are markedly different from the stories of those greeted by the Statue of Liberty.A stuttering, 10-year-old, Yep Gim Lew must make the long journey to San Francisco and study for the grueling interrogation at Angel Island as he prepares to make the transition from Chinese farm boy to grown-up, Guest of the Golden Mountain, as travelers to the American West were called. His father, Yep Lung Gon, uncomfortable as a wealthy Chinese "lord" during his visits back to China, instructs Yep Gim Lew in the ways of the west.In addition to the novel, there is an extensive Author's Note, a chapter on Chinese Immigration , as well as period photographs, web resources, and a bibliography. At under 150 pages including extras, this book is a quick and interesting read. There are not many light-hearted moments in the story, but the voice is authentic, and the story offers a great insight into Chinese and Chinese-American culture.Coincidentally, according to immigration documents, the author's grandfather, Yep Lung Gon arrived in San Francisco on one of his many voyages, the day after the devastating San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. He writes about this period in history in The Earth Dragon Awakes.