Dragon Road (Golden Mountain Chronicles: 1939)

Dragon Road (Golden Mountain Chronicles: 1939)

by Laurence Yep

View All Available Formats & Editions

Best friends Cal and Barney are down and out in Chinatown. In the America of 1939, they are trapped by invisible barriers created by racial prejudice. With no jobs and no real homes, it's only their wizardry with a basketball that's let them survive this long.

That same skill suddenly flings a door open to fame and fortune when a professional basketball team, the


Best friends Cal and Barney are down and out in Chinatown. In the America of 1939, they are trapped by invisible barriers created by racial prejudice. With no jobs and no real homes, it's only their wizardry with a basketball that's let them survive this long.

That same skill suddenly flings a door open to fame and fortune when a professional basketball team, the Dragons, invites them to join the team. Soon they're barnstorming across America and taking on all comers—from local amateurs to other professional teams like the Harlem Globetrotters.

On that long, difficult road, they must battle rowdy teams and their even rougher fans on makeshift courts. Cal, aka Flash, and the team must also overcome terrible weather, crumbling highways, and their own disintegrating car. As the tour starts to fall apart, the tension between Cal and the team's jealous captain comes to a head. Suddenly Cal must choose between loyalty to his teammates and the pursuit of his own celebrity.

Inspired by the pioneering professional Chinese American basketball team the Hong Wah Kues, Newbery Honor author Laurence Yep re-creates a colorful era of barnstorming basketball and leads readers through the heartache and glory of the dragon road.

Editorial Reviews

Mary Quattlebaum
Laurence Yep skillfully conveys the [basketball's] fast-paced energy as well as details of the times: boarded-up stores and "hangdog" Okies in "rusty rattletraps." Inspired by the Hong Wah Kues, a real Chinese American team, this novel makes a compelling addition to Yep's award-winning multigenerational saga, the Golden Mountain Chronicles.
—The Washington Post
School Library Journal

Gr 5 Up

As a person of Chinese ancestry who dares to venture beyond the confines of his own ethnic enclave, Calvin "Flash" Chin, a recent high-school graduate, finds the America of 1939 to be a dangerous place. Persuaded by a couple of fast-talking recruiters to join a barnstorming basketball team composed entirely of Chinese Americans, he leaves the safety of San Francisco's Chinatown to travel with his teammates to small towns throughout the West, playing against the local talent. The stories that Calvin has heard of violence against previous generations of Chinese workers are never far from his mind, and he learns firsthand that unthinking, knee-jerk hostility toward all outsiders is still very much a part of the American landscape. Prejudice both crude and subtle is pervasive, as is the threat of violence. Neither the natural beauty of the land nor the joy of athletic competition ever completely dispels the atmosphere of menace. Calvin, straddling two cultures, draws comfort and solace from his heritage even as he explicitly rejects the spirit of interconnectedness that animates his elders' worldview. Readers with a taste for sports history will enjoy the fact-based account of the hardscrabble existence of Depression-era barnstorming teams. A worthy addition to this important series.-Richard Luzer, Fair Haven Union High School, VT

Kirkus Reviews
Yep adds to his ongoing Golden Mountain Chronicles with this absorbing tale of a basketball team that leaves San Francisco's Chinatown to barnstorm across California and the West in 1939. Lured by the chance to show off his basketball skills and earn steady money, as well as to break away from his alcoholic father and economically depressed community, Calvin joins a newly organized squad dubbed the Dragons, which sets out in a battered jalopy on a relentless tour of small-town gyms and halls, playing both local teams and such historical legends as the Harlem Globetrotters. Series fans will enjoy this new encounter with Cal and other characters who have made previous appearances in various volumes. The author also injects plenty of game action-though what comes across most vividly through the Dragons' ups, downs and eventual return to San Francisco is the pervasive prejudice against minorities that they encounter, the harsh but sometimes exhilarating experiences of life on the road and most especially the central importance of cultural and family ties. (afterword, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Golden Mountain Chronicles Series
Product dimensions:
8.48(w) x 5.82(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Dragon Road

Golden Mountain Chronicles: 1939

By Laurence Yep
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008

Laurence Yep
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780060275211

Chapter One

Autumn, 1939

When I left Chinatown that morning, I never expected to be running for my life.

I'd like to blame the trouble on my pal Barney Young, but the con had been my idea in the first place.

When I was a kid, I'd listened to Grandpa Joe, Barney's grandfather. He said study hard and I'd get ahead. So I got straight As.

My good-for-nothing dad said I was a chump for doing that. But I told him to take a hike. Who listens to a rummy anyway?

It turned out, though, that he was right. The whole world had been deep in the Depression for years—I don't mean the emotional kind. There were no jobs, no money, and stores and factories had closed everywhere. When I graduated from high school in '38, the newspapers were all bragging America was coming out of it, but you could have fooled me. In Chinatown there were fifty guys lined up for any one job.

About the only other thing that Barney and I were good at was basketball, and our teams had torn up the Chinatown tournaments. However, no one knew us outside of Chinatown. Barney's grades had been lousy in Galileo High School, and I'd been kicked off the basketball team in high school after the "incident"—which was fine by me. Who needed some coach telling me how to playbasketball? Basketball just is. It's in your guts, not your head.

I figured we could go to playgrounds outside of Chinatown and con some guys into playing for money.

Barney thought it was pretty harebrained—and a little scary too because when Chinese left Chinatown, they never knew what might happen.

So Barney wasn't too crazy about leaving Chinatown, but he was just as desperate as me. We gathered up all the medals and trophies from the Chinatown tournaments and pawned them. Three shelf-loads of honors only got us two bucks, but that was all we needed. Barney cut up some newspaper, and we slapped a dollar on the top and the bottom. That gave us a money roll to tempt the marks into a game.

Then we scooted up to the Italian area above Chinatown called North Beach. Chinese could expect a fight there about 50 percent of the time. But we set up in a school playground anyway. We missed baskets. We lost dribbles.

When these Italian guys came in, they tried to drive us off the court. But we challenged them to a game. On an inspiration, I began to talk in broken English, and Barney picked up his cue and fractured his English too. And we hammed it up like the way Americans thought Chinese acted.

Oh, and that was the beauty of the scam. We couldn't have fooled them if they hadn't already fooled themselves about Chinese in general.

They figured they'd teach us a lesson, so we started to play. We pretended to be awful, so when the money roll "accidentally" fell out of my pocket, the chumps licked their chops and suggested we play for cash.

We took them for five bucks, and once the bet was down, they licked their chops like the cat that ate the canary. One of the jokers even began to hum "China Boy," which had been a popular tune a few years before.

So it was a real pleasure to turn the tables on them. They stuck their arms up high but didn't move them around—which was their idea of defense. Up until that moment, we'd been shooting just like them and like most everyone who played basketball. To do a standard shot, shooters came to a stop, set up, and took their sweet time throwing the ball at the basket. It was a slow, methodical—and boring—process.

"Now?" Barney asked me with a wink.

"Now," I agreed. There was this Italian kid Hank Luisetti, also from North Beach, who had invented a running one-handed shot. His Stanford team had stormed through the big college tournament back east, the Basketball Writers Association Tournament. I'd snuck into a game down on the Farm, as the Stanford campus was called, and fallen in love with that shot at first sight. I'd never seen anyone shoot so fast. It caught most everyone by surprise.

I started to dribble on the run around the boneheads. That sent them scooting backward to take new positions. Then I gave a little jump into the air and whipped the ball up by my right ear, thrusting the ball with my right hand upward and outward. As I rose almost to their height, I could see the ball arcing smoothly toward the basket.

As the ball swished through the net, their jaws dropped open. I guess they never expected me to know or use Hank's shot.

It was a sweet moment when they got this funny look in their eyes and realized they'd been wrong about us. But that only made them madder, because they figured they were taller and could still take us. Height, though, is a disadvantage when you're just plain clumsy, so it was easy to snatch the ball from them.

Barney and I scooted in and out and all around them, like they were mannequins, while we hit basket after basket. Barney could hit Hank's shot too, but he was more accurate with the traditional shooting methods; and that was fine because he could always get into the clear to take his time.

So they starting calling us sly slit-eyes and other rotten names, so I guess we'd moved from one stereotype to another: from bumbling immigrants to cunning Fu Man Chus.

Barney looked worried and whispered to me not to blow my top. When we were little kids, it had been stiffs just like them who had made fun of us in school—pulling up the corners of their eyes so they slanted and making funny singsong noises and then saying rotten things.


Excerpted from Dragon Road by Laurence Yep Copyright © 2008 by Laurence Yep. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet 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.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >