It’s That Get Back to Work Time of Year, and a Sunday Review: The Paper Daughters of Chinatown

These zinnias are the first flowers I’ve ever grown from seeds planted directly in the garden. Next year I will plant lots more. Definitely my favorite garden bouquet bloom.


I was thinking this morning about how much of my life has revolved around an American academic schedule: 9 months of school, including various holidays, plus 3 months off in the summer. It started when I was 5 years old and continued until the end of my 5 year college plan. There were precious few years after college in which I wasn’t required to note the academic calendar–maybe only three in all, because I took writing classes at night at University of Missouri, St. Louis for a couple of years. That hardly counts, though. My day job was year ’round.

Then I married a university professor, and had children. My life has been centered around the academic calendar ever since. I can’t help but feel I should have the summers off! Isn’t that funny? Writing is a full time job. It doesn’t stop for the summer. At least I don’t think it should. With children at home, I had to be available, of course. We took mini vacations to visit family, and spent time at various swimming pools. There was lots of driving back and forth to summer camps, and plenty of gardening. When they were small, I snuck in writing when I could. But come the end of August, I felt the need to be more organized and productive, and I still do.

My heart hurts for the families with children this fall, and their teachers. COVID 19 has put science, politics, and personal beliefs in a kind of circular firing squad. There’s zero consensus–or even widespread common opinion–on what the right thing to do is when it comes to sending children back to the classroom. Every day there’s a news story about conflicts on campus–masks or no masks, social distancing or no. (Have you ever tried to social distance even just a pair of six-year-olds for any reason?!) What has always been a traditional rite of late summer is now a clusterf*#k of massive proportions. Not only did students miss out so many spring traditions and in-class learning, now millions for whom online learning may not even be tenable will miss more months of education. And we need to remember the children who are at risk, stuck in their own homes.

What to do? I have no answers. I know we need a ton of patience. No, this won’t last forever. A few months or even a year with minimal instruction won’t necessarily ruin a child’s life. There’s even an entire educational movement that embraces unschooling, in which children follow their own interests and pursues self-education. I have very mixed feelings about that. When we talked about homeschooling our kids, he saw it as a great idea. I confess I wasn’t willing to give my kids that kind of control. Kids are awesome. Kids also live in a culture which demands certain competencies. To be fair, one of our children might have thrived at unschooling. The other, not so much. We homeschooled various grades, under differing circumstances. There were periods in which we really buckled down, and periods we slacked off a bit, doing the minimum. The great thing about homeschooling is that you can get the basics in a few hours during the day. There’s no class changing, or fire drills, or driving back and forth (well, not much, unless you hybrid with some classroom teaching as we did). I loved homeschooling, except when I didn’t. My point is that it’s possible to educate a child a lot of different ways, if you are available to do it, or fit it in the best you can. Sometimes it’s incredibly rewarding, sometimes it’s a nightmare. Just like everything else in life.

Me? I have an overwhelming desire to overhaul my entire life over the next 24 hours! Last night, everyone in the house stayed up until 2:00 a.m. doing various things online (I was designing book covers…more on that later). But tonight I want to go to bed at 10:00 and get up at 7:00 and do my morning pages, and yoga, and eat a healthy breakfast, and write a bit before going to meet a bestie for mall walking. Oh, and do 90 minutes of Monday housecleaning somewhere in there before 1:00. Oh, and the post office. I’m feeling breathless just thinking about it. It’s my Platonic ideal of a Monday. I have Platonic ideals for pretty much everything. It’s the perfectionist’s curse. We set up our ideals like idols, and when we fall short, we beat ourselves up. We’re the worst parents to our own inner children, EVER.

So, my plan is to get ready for bed at 10:00, and make a list for tomorrow that doubles the time I imagine things will take and go from there.

What’s your plan? (I ask everyone that–drives my family crazy! It’s like the I Keep Three Wishes Ready poem. Only more annoying.)





Here’s a recent review of a book of historical fiction–one of my non-thriller pleasures. While THE PAPER DAUGHTERS OF CHINATOWN is for a general audience, it would be suitable for a reader of 16 or above who is mature enough to engage with the subject of sexual slavery and human trafficking. This review also appears on Goodreads. The book comes out on September 1st

Moore’s story of Donaldina Cameron’s work at the Occidental Home for Girls and its many Chinese residents is both dramatic and compelling. It covers a period of national shame–when Chinese immigrants were barred from entering the US, with an exception for Chinese women who were promised to be married to US residents. Fraud was rampant, and large numbers of Chinese women arrived only to realize they had been duped into sexual slavery. Donaldina Cameron came to work at the home for a brief period, but discovered she had a passion for the work of caring for and rescuing the Asian women who had been so exploited, and so worked there for many years. I was skeptical when I first approached this book because it seemed to have the stereotype of the Helpful White Lady all over it. And having finished it, I wonder if the story might have been better focused on the home and its Asian residents, rather than as seen through Cameron’s eyes. That said, Cameron, along with her police contacts, many of the residents, and sympathetic San Franciscans of all races, did very important work in caring for and liberating exploited women and children. It would be a great disservice to discount that work–and this book–because of Cameron’s race. Cameron is shown to be both compassionate and practical in her service, which may be why she was so successful and beloved. I was particularly drawn to Tien Fu Wu, who began the story as a damaged, troubled teenager, and grew to be one of the home’s most valuable rescuers. Her growth within the story was a firm through point that carried the book to its triumphant end, even more so than that of the fictional Mei Lien. Readers should take particular care to read the excellent Author’s Note before reading the novel so they can appreciate it in its important social and political contexts. I also very much liked the epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter, and the corresponding notes at the end are not to be missed. Recommended for lovers of US history, immigration, and even crime stories. The prose is clear and direct, and definitely appropriate for YA readers as well as adults.

I was provided with a free copy of THE PAPER DAUGHTERS OF CHINATOWN by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


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