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Book Review: Chinese Brothers, American Sons by Ed Shew (2020), Historical Fiction

Andrew's review of Chinese Brothers, American Sons by Ed Shew



Chinese Brothers, American Sons is an engrossing novel about the uniting of America East and West. The building of the Transcontinental Railroad is the backdrop for a story of America and also a story of China.


Without the tens of thousands of Chinese laborers who performed the vast majority of the backbreaking work building the Central Pacific Railroad east from California to Utah, the new American railroad would have taken decades longer to construct. These Chinese (almost all men) left China during the mid-19th century to escape famine and strife and seek their fortune on the Gold Mountain. They were coming to create a better life for themselves and to support their families back in China. For their efforts, they suffered constant and overt racism, oppression, and hardship. They were persecuted, harassed, and repeatedly told that they were not welcome. Yet, they were needed. And this touching and gritty story demonstrates how much so.


This is a story not only of America and China, but also of the creation of Chinese-America. Older brother Li Chang shares cultural and moral pearls of wisdom and his love of culinary creation with his younger brother Li Yu and others. There is coming of age, and there is a love story with an unexpected twist. Chinese Brothers, American Sons tells an important tale, a forgotten tale, a tale that can help all Americans better understand our collective history.