The Traitor (Golden Mountain Chronicles: 1885)

Overview

In the Wyoming territory in 1885, life is tough, especially for Michael Purdy. An outcast in the small town of Rock Springs, he's either bullied and bloodied, or ignored. Michael feels he might as well be a ghost in this rough coal-mining town.

But life is even harder for Joseph Young, a Chinese American boy and Michael's secret ally. Despised by the white miners, the Chinese work in dangerous conditions, struggling against poverty and racism. Still, Joseph yearns to be a "real ...

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Overview

In the Wyoming territory in 1885, life is tough, especially for Michael Purdy. An outcast in the small town of Rock Springs, he's either bullied and bloodied, or ignored. Michael feels he might as well be a ghost in this rough coal-mining town.

But life is even harder for Joseph Young, a Chinese American boy and Michael's secret ally. Despised by the white miners, the Chinese work in dangerous conditions, struggling against poverty and racism. Still, Joseph yearns to be a "real American" -- a dream his father and the other Chinese laborers can't understand.

When the town's growing resentment toward the Chinese explodes, Michael and Joseph must test their unlikely friendship and trust each other with their lives.

In 1885, a lonely illegitimate American boy and a lonely Chinese American boy develop an unlikely friendship in the midst of prejudices and racial tension in their coal mining town of Rock Springs, Wyoming.

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Editorial Reviews

The Horn Book
“The well-drawn history is fascinating and the plight of the boys as outsiders will appeal to young adolescent readers.”
The Horn Book
“The well-drawn history is fascinating and the plight of the boys as outsiders will appeal to young adolescent readers.”
Publishers Weekly
Laurence Yep's Golden Mountain Chronicles-which traces the experiences of the Youngs, a Chinese family, over several generations in America (the publisher includes in the series Dragonwings, Dragon's Gate and Child of the Owl, among others)-continues with The Traitor, set in 1885 in Wyoming Territory. The narrative alternates between Joseph Young ("I was thirteen in Chinese years. Twelve in Western") and his American counterpart, Michael Purdy, both of whom work in the mines.
Children's Literature
Based on true events depicting one of America's most embarrassing times in history, this novel tells a story of prejudice, violence, friendship, and humanity. Two boys, one Chinese the other Caucasian and both outcasts, meet in a cave and develop a strong friendship which will ultimately prove to be the way of providing hope in waging war against prejudice. This novel is written in the first person and gives the reader a view of the horrific inhumanities that are blatantly obvious in the Wyoming Territory in 1885. Resentment against the Chinese people grows when the railroad decides to replace American miners with Chinese workers. This resentment escalates to hatred and a violent slaughter takes place. It is during this period of time that the boys must trust each other with their lives and both learn the definitions to words such as traitor, outsider, hate, and cruelty. I found this book to be well written and the author did an excellent job of balancing despair and tragedy with hopefulness and trust. There are places where the story seems a bit long, but it still held my interest. Yep includes the Golden Mountain Chronicles at the end of the book with information that the ninth book is still to be written. This is an excellent book to be used in the classroom when teaching American History. 2003, Harper Collins Publisher
—Kathie M. Josephs
VOYA
Two twelve-year-old boys alternate the telling of the nearly forgotten racial events of 1880s Wyoming. In this ninth novel of the Golden Mountain Chronicles, Yep continues Otter Young's story begun in Dragon's Gate (HarperCollins, 1993/VOYA December 1993). Now ostracized by his Chinese community, idealistic Otter has moved from railroad work to coal mining. Joseph Young, his American-born son, feels more American than Chinese, but he works alongside the Chinese men in the brutal coal mines and lives with them in the Chinese camp. Michael Purdy, the illegitimate son of a white laundress, is also an outcast within his own community. The two boys meet by accident in a cave: Michael is escaping town bullies, and Joseph is taking a break from the mines with fossil hunting. Their third-person accounts interweave their developing, forbidden friendship and the growing resentment of the Westerners, which explodes in a bloody massacre of the Chinese. Readers will be drawn in by Yep's fascinating history of the Chinese in America still living under the shadow of Manchu rule and description of the economic hardship that Westerners suffer when displaced by Chinese workers. The boys' feelings of not belonging will appeal to young adolescents. The novel can stand alone, but the author's note, selected bibliography, and appendix explain where this story fits into the rest of the series and will draw more fans. VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). Biblio. Appendix. 2003, HarperCollins, 320p,
— Cynthia Grady
KLIATT
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, March 2003: Yep has continued here with the story of many generations of a Chinese immigrant family, the Young family. The most famous book in the series was written many years ago: Dragonwings, which takes place in 1903. Yep has gone back as far as 1849 and as far forward in time to 1995, with Thief of Hearts. Each novel stands alone, but considering them together as a family chronicle that parallels the experiences of many Chinese immigrants to the West Coast adds a great dimension to Yep's work. The Traitor takes place in Wyoming, in the mines, in 1885 and is based on the historical event called the Rock Springs Massacre. Written historical accounts by Americans and Chinese provided Yep with the essence of his story. At least 25 Chinese workers were buried, and another 26 Chinese disappeared when the hatred of the town's white citizens was unleashed into violence. In Yep's novel, a Chinese boy named Joe and a white boy named Michael become friends when they meet in a cave outside the town. The two boys take turns with the narrative, so we get the story from both perspectives. Michael is an outcast because his parents are not married, so he, like the Chinese, suffers from bullying and abuse. Michael's mother does laundry for a living, and other women who do laundry become some of the most vicious attackers in the massacre (based on historical fact); Michael and his mother are unusual for white people, more tolerant than most, and they in fact hide Joe and his father from the mob. It's an exciting book of two boys at odds with their own kind and with their worlds; in the end, they escape the small town and itsprejudices and head away to new lives. (Golden Mountain Chronicles: 1885). KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2003, HarperTrophy, 310p., Ages 12 to 15.
—Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-This novel, based on a true event, tells the story of two young teens who live in Rock Springs, WY, in 1885 when animosity between American and Chinese miners reaches its peak. Born in the U.S. of Chinese parents, Joseph Young considers himself an American, but both communities see him as only Chinese. Michael Purdy is an "outsider" because of his illegitimate birth. The boys meet when Michael escapes hounding by bullies and hides in a cave outside of town where Joseph is fossil hunting. In chapters that alternate between the two well-developed characters, the book describes their growing friendship despite the escalating trouble between the Chinese and the "Westerners" who blame the newcomers for their economic hardships and march on Chinatown in a rampage. Though the narrative leading up to the massacre and its aftermath is perhaps a bit too long, Yep does a good job portraying the rampant prejudice, and he does not sugarcoat the horrifying violence, told from Michael's point of view. In stark contrast to the inhumanity he sees in the streets, his mother acts humanely in spite of her negative view of the Chinese. This series entry adds another chapter to the tale of the Young family, who came to America from Kwangtung, China, and sheds needed light on a shameful, but forgotten, event in American history.-Barbara Scotto, Michael Driscoll School, Brookline, MA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Yep lays down another course of his now monumental, seven-generation family chronicle begun in Dragonwings (1975) with this tale of two Wyoming Territory outsiders-one an illegitimate white child, the other a US-born son of a Chinese coal miner-who witness the Rock Springs massacre, one of the most savage race riots in our history. In alternating chapters (and typefaces), Joseph Young, or "Precious Light" as his father insists on calling him, and Michael Purdy, the washerwoman's son, track rising tensions between the town's Chinese and non-Chinese residents, as they themselves forge a secret, uncertain alliance in a fossil-filled cave they dub Star Rock. As hostile confrontations and public rallies gradually escalate into an all-out, armed assault on the Chinese camp, Yep methodically exposes the ugliness of racial hatred, with characters on both sides justifying irrational stances fueled by fear, misdirected anger, malicious intentions, and misunderstanding. Star Rock isn't the only sign that better relations are possible, however, for to his astonishment, Michael finds his previously intolerant mother sheltering Joseph and his father from the general slaughter until they can flee-and the tale ends with both families about to re-connect in San Francisco. "You have the right dream," a wiser Joseph tells his father Otter (protagonist of Dragon's Gate [1993], and here a reviled, steadfastly pacifistic adult). "There just have to be more of us making that dream happen." Yep caps his strong, chilling story with a historical afterword, then maps out his saga's past and future episodes. Essential reading for all students of America's complex history and culture. (Fiction. 11-13)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060008314
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/26/2004
  • Series: Golden Mountain Chronicles Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.62 (h) x 0.64 (d)

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.

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First Chapter

The Traitor
Golden Mountain Chronicles: 1885

Chapter One

Joseph Young
Chinese Camp, Wyoming Territory
Sunday, June 14, 1885

Father began the morning with his usual fight.

I tried to cling to a few more minutes of sleep because it was Sunday, our one day of rest. I could hear the stranger taunting Father outside the cabin. Most Chinese did when they found out Father's identity.

"So you're the high-and-mighty Otter," the man was jeering. "What are you doing stuck here digging coal just like me?"

Father's voice was as friendly as ever. "I thought my days with a pickax were done when I left the railroad," he agreed. "But here I am again."

I kept to my bed, hoping that this time it would be different: Father would be able to make peace with the man.

"And where are all your American pals now?" the man sneered. "You told us they'd never let those laws pass."

"Those immigration laws passed only because of ignorance. My Western friends are fighting to overturn them right now," Father said to the man. "Westerners" was Father's polite word for Americans.

Calmly Father tried to assure the man that everything would work out for all of us eventually. He had such faith in America and in American justice. He never seemed to realize that his words, meant to soothe, only rubbed salt into old wounds. All the Chinese were frustrated with what was happening; but since they couldn't take it out on the Americans, they looked for other targets.

By now I was good at reading the tones and undercurrents of voices, so I knew that the man was getting ready to beat Father to a pulp.

With a sigh I unrolled my trousers, which I had been using as a pillow. Pulling them on, I rolled out of the bunk bed to save Father -- sometimes it was hard to say who was raising whom.

The sun was just rising, so I made my way quietly past the other bunks, where our cabinmates were still snoring. When I stepped outside, I didn't recognize the man. The coal company kept upping our quotas and bringing in more Chinese to work. There were always plenty of Chinese who kept coming to the Land of the Golden Mountain -- as they called America. And these guests -- as they called themselves -- were willing to do anything.

This guest was still plump with city fat. The coal mines would either slim him down or kill him. "I'm sick of your promises," he said, balling his hand into a fist.

Father just kept his hands at his sides, refusing to lift a hand to defend himself. As he said once, it was better for a Chinese to strike him than an American. He would get a beating if I didn't do something.

There was a small bench outside the cabin. Snatching it up, I brought it down hard on the newcomer's broad back; but he didn't fall down. He just stood there and gave a puzzled grunt. And suddenly he became all the ungrateful fools who had driven us from San Francisco's Chinatown and who still made my life so miserable here. So I brought the bench down on his head this time.

The newcomer had a skull as hard as stone. He gave a shake of his head and whirled around, raising an arm to protect himself.

So I crouched, swinging the bench at his knee. With a shout, he went down, clutching his leg.

I bent over, hitting the newcomer again. He thrashed and wallowed like a beached whale. Then the bench, always a little wobbly, finally broke into halves. I got ready to flail at the newcomer with a piece in either hand.

Father, though, pinned my arms against my sides. "That's enough. If he can't work today, he won't get paid."

He'd gotten flabby as an interpreter in San Francisco, but twelve- and even sixteen-hour shifts in the coal mines had restored his muscles. He said he was as strong now as when he worked on the railroads as a teenager. And he easily jerked me away.

Then he squatted over the newcomer. "Are you all right?"

I threw the pieces of bench away. As smart as Father was, he kept ignoring the truth. "Why do you care about him?"

Father gave me a reproachful look over his shoulder. "All Chinese are our brothers. Now please get some water." Then he helped the newcomer to sit up.

All the drinking water in the camps and in town had to be brought in by train. Though there was a creek, the water was so bad that you couldn't drink it. Going to the barrel, I took off the lid and picked up the dipper that hung from a nail.

On the surface of the water I saw my face floating against the sky. My jaw was square like Father's, but my eyes were small with sharp folds at the corners like Mother's. In San Francisco I had been careful to keep the hair shaved from the crown of my head; but here I'd let it grow out like many of the other miners. My skin was darker than theirs because I spent more time walking in the open.

Then my reflection disappeared as I lowered the dipper in and brought it over to the newcomer.

Sulking, the newcomer knocked it aside. "Get away from me," he mumbled. He looked a little wobbly as he rose, but he stumbled back to his cabin somehow.

Father tried to hide his hurt by making a joke. "Well, there's nothing like a brisk morning workout to get my appetite up. I hope White Deer will be cooking up something good."

The Traitor
Golden Mountain Chronicles: 1885
. Copyright © by Laurence Yep. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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