Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Good Fortune: My Journey to Gold Mountain

Good Fortune: My Journey to Gold Mountain

Li Keng Wong
For ages 8 to 12
Peachtree, 2006   ISBN: 978-1561453672

Li Keng lives in China with her mother and her two sisters Li Hong and Lai Wah. Her father, Baba, is in “Gum Saan” which means Golden Mountain. This is the name the Chinese gave the United States. Many of them believe that the streets are paved with gold and that everyone who lives there is rich. For many years Baba has lived in the United States but now, at long last, he is coming home and he is going to take the whole family back to the United States with him. Of course Li Keng is excited at the prospect but she is also scared. She has never left her own small world in China before and cannot help wondering how they will manage in a country they know nothing about and where they don’t even speak the language.

The journey to the United States is a hard one but it is even harder persuading the American government officials to let Li Keng’s family into the country. They spend one week on Angel Island being interrogated. Thankfully their answers satisfy the officials and they are allowed to leave the island and join Baba in San Francisco.

To her disappointment Li Keng discovers that the streets are not paved in gold and that her father does not own a grocery store, which is what she thought he did. Instead he runs a Chinese gambling establishment. Now Li Keng and her family have the constant worry hanging over their heads that the shop is going to be raided by the police.

Li Keng Wong paints a fascinating picture of what it was like to arrive in San Francisco in the early 1930’s when America was in the grip of the Depression and when Chinese immigrants were not welcomed with open arms. We can see that Chinese families had to face much hardship, working hard and putting up with a great deal to build themselves a new life in the Land of Golden Mountain.