The Paper Daughters of Chinatown

Written by Allison Hong Merrill
Review by Linda Harris Sittig

In 1892, when six-year-old Tai Choi gets on a boat, she believes she is leaving home to visit her grandmother. She does not realize that her father has sold her to pay his gambling debts. Weeks later, she arrives in San Francisco with forged papers and a new name, Tien Fu Wu. She is sold once again and becomes a servant, living a harsh life, and repeatedly told that if she does not obey her new owner, she will be severely punished. Over the next two years, she is sold again and again. Her new owners mistreat her, leaving bruises and scars on her young body. It isn’t until she is rescued by the women who run the Occidental Mission Home School for Girls that Tien Fu is safe. But by this time, she trusts no one. As the story progresses, Donaldina Cameron comes to the mission school to teach and tries to befriend Tien Fu. But can a child who has been betrayed so many times ever trust an adult again?

Based on actual historical events, the tale is masterfully told with rich historical details. This unforgettable story is brought to life with vibrantly portrayed characters, quickly drawing the reader into the plot’s action. Highly recommended.