Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Paper Daughter

The Nehls and the Lantzys rented a house in Nathrop, Colorado this weekend at the base of the Chalk Cliffs. While the boys headed off to conquer another section of the Colorado Trail on their mountain bikes, Terre and I visited the galleries in Salida. A gallery filled with colorful sculptures of alien beings was probably the most unique artwork we viewed. My favorite piece was an alien mother reading Where the Wild Things Are to her alien baby. As I marveled at the artist's creativity, I began to think about the many connotations of the word alien and a book I read recently. Paper Daughter by Jeanette Ingold is the story of a young girl who discovers her deceased news reporter father was actually the son of an illegal alien.

Maggie Chen, an aspiring journalist who is still mourning her father's death in a hit and run accident, takes an internship at a Seattle newspaper, where she uncovers a story that links her father's death to political corruption. At the same time she is investigating her father's lies about his family's origins. After finding and reading his journals, Maggie discovers his family does not have East Coast blue blood ties, but rather he is the son of Fai Yi, a man who entered the US as a "paper son." Fai Yi and his twin sister's history is interwoven with Maggie's present day story. In a flashback to 1932, Fai-yi narrates the tale of their illegal entry into the United States using a "paper father," a ruse used to avoid the Chinese Exclusion Act.

At the Herald, Maggie and her mentor are investigating a local government scandal that ends in murder. When they find a connection to her father's death, she is taken off the story. Maggie realizes that finding the truth about her father's past will help to clear his name. As the suspense builds, Maggie wonders, "Why would my father, who'd always said a person was only as good as his or her word, have lied about his parents and about how he'd been brought up?"

The historical information about Chinese poverty during this period, which prompted mass immigration to the US and the resulting laws prohibiting Chinese immigration, as well as Maggie's struggle to understand the truth about her cultural heritage will keep the reader engaged. Coupled with the mystery of the government scandal and murder, the story of her search for the truth makes for a real page turner.

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