Good Fortune, My Journey to Gold Mountain,
by Li Keng Wong; Peachtree Publishers:
Atlanta, Georgia, 2006; $14.95
Have you ever read a book that grasps you from the first page and won’t let go until you have finished reading it? Good Fortune, My journey to Gold Mountain, is one of them. You will feel like you are not in this world. You will feel as if you are experiencing Li Keng’s world, and that you are part of the story you read at that moment.
I stayed up late to read and was enchanted by what I read. Li Keng Gee, who’s seven years old in the beginning, and who tells the story, is also the author—she is now Li Keng Wong. Mama, Li Hong (Li Keng’s older sister), Lai Wah (their youngest sister) and Li Keng herself, all go to Gold Mountain, what the Chinese called America, on board the SS Hoover to live with Baba. But before they, and the other women as well, are allowed to enter America, they are interrogated by the officials.
They are questioned because the American government doesn’t want tons of poor people coming to America, taking up space, and not having enough money to support themselves. If you don’t get all the answers right, you are deported back to China. Also, a Chinese laborer isn’t allowed to bring his wife into the states, so what does Mama do to get to California? She pretends to be Baba’s sister, and so her three daughters start calling Mama “Yee.” Yee means Aunt in Chinese.
Once they are in America, they join Baba in his store —an illegal lottery business. Since gambling is against the law, the owners disguise their stores by making them look like clothing stores for example. But every so often, the police find out about a lottery store, and they arrest the owner. This happens to Baba a few times, but he is out of jail soon. Baba’s store is large-ish, so he plans to have the family live there instead of renting another place.
Mama gives birth to Nellie, their first child born in America. Then Leslie and Florence come into the family as well. All times, the whole family prays to Quan Yin, the Chinese goddess of Mercy, that she will grant their family a boy Giving birth to a boy means two things: one, the son will carry the family name, and two, he and his wife will take care of his parents when they grow old. So it is good to have a son, and the Chinese culture still believes in it. When Mama gives birth to William, they are all happy to finally have a boy.
The tradition of wanting a boy is still important in China because of the one-child policy I was born in China, and I don’t like the policy Even though China’s one-child policy is supposed to prevent overpopulation, I hate it that parents have to abandon their babies.
This is common: if Chinese families give birth to a girl, they keep the girl and try for a son. If the next child is a girl (probably me), they abandon the newest baby in some busy place, and try again for a son. Some of the baby girls who are abandoned are adopted and come to America. Li Keng and I both came to America for a better life.
Good Fortune is a great book! The words are beautifully woven together, and the way Wong shares her childhood in this book is amazing. I highly recommend it to all who are ages eight and up. I loved this book, and I hope you all do too.