Review Blog

Aug 03 2016

Yong the journey of an unworthy son by Janeen Brian

cover image

Walker Books, 2016. ISBN 9781925126297
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. Migration, Chinese, Goldfields (Australia), Prejudice, Australian History. When Yong is told by his father, the head man in their village in China, that many men are leaving for Australia to search for luck in the goldfields at Ballarat, he asks to stay behind and help his grandmother care for his two siblings. But his father is determined that he go too. Together they will find enough gold to end their poverty and pay back the moneylenders. Yong feels he is an unworthy son because he questions his father's aims. Told from Yong's perspective, the story of a group of Chinese men sailing from China to Robe in South Australia, then walking overland to Victoria is mesmerising, as we walk with them, tramping many miles each day, feeling overwhelmed at the four hundred miles ahead of them. We listen to the prejudice doled out to these men and find that many of the stories they have been told lack substance and the group begins to blame Yong's father for their predicament.
Janeen Brian's meticulous research gives the tale a strong base of historical truth, against which we can judge what our actions may have been in similar circumstances. All stories of migration resonate with Australians, as we are all dependent upon what our forebears did in the past to improve their lives.
When Yong finally arrives at Ballarat, after death, desertion, starvation and derision he realises that in following his father's dream he is indeed an honourable son. And I am sure that readers, like me will want to know how he copes in that mining town.
There are only a few novels containing a Chinese immigrant to our shores so this is very welcome, giving a face to some who came in the nineteenth century along with so many others (New gold mountain, Melting pot and Seams of gold, by Christopher Cheng, 2005-7, Goldseekers, by Greg Bastian, 2005, Gold fever, by Susan Coleridge, 2006).
Fran Knight

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