The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies [in Booklist]
British-born of Welsh and Chinese parentage, Peter Ho Davies (The Welsh Girl, 2007) has lived stateside since 1992, but this is his first U.S.-set title. In it he explores the history of his adopted home in four sections.
In “Gold,” he links the completion of the transcontinental railroad by Chinese workers to magnate Charlie Crocker’s mixed-race Hong Kong–born manservant Ah Ling. In “Silver,” Hollywood’s first Chinese American movie star, Anna May Wong, escapes her greatest celluloid humiliation, losing the “role of a lifetime” to a German American actress in “yellowface” by taking “the trip of a lifetime” to a “homeland” where she’s never been. In “Jade,” Jimmy Choi debates the “truth” of his friend Vincent Chin’s tragic death and how the subsequent lenient sentencing of Chin’s murderers “marked the start of a pan-Asian political movement.” In “Pearl,” a mixed-race Chinese American man and his wife travel to China to claim their daughter-to-be.
Intertwining fact with fictional license and creative finesse, Davies charts the conflicted, complicated journey of being a minority American through multiple generations. Rich rewards await readers searching for superbly illuminating historical fiction; think Geraldine Brooks’ Caleb’s Crossing (2011) or Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell trilogy.
YA/Mature Readers: Ho’s historically inspired fiction provides an intriguing, humanizing perspective.
Readers: Young Adult, Adult