This is an enjoyable tale of a young Chinese boy who travels to the US to be with his father. His father longs to fly and begins a correspondence with the Wright Brothers. I’ll spare the details of his quest to avoid spoilers, but honestly, that part of the plot seems to take a back seat to what I felt the true message of the story is.
The author calls Dragonwings an historical fantasy. It is loosely based on a Chinese man who did actually create a flying machine that stayed airborne for 20 minutes in the early 1900’s. Few details remain about that man, so the author intertwined his character with other stories of what life was like for the Chinese immigrants back then.
I love stories like this that invite the reader to see the world from another perspective. I love the beauty of various cultures and I love stories of friendships that form, allowing different individuals to understand each other a little better and see how those cultural beliefs and practices influence the human being behind them.
Too often, we define others by the strange differences we perceive. A Hasidic Jew might seem weird, with his dark suit, tzitzits, sidelocks, and beard. It can be hard to figuratively see past the burqa worn by a Muslim woman. And in the case of this book, one might have been blinded by the stereotypes about the china-men “stealing jobs from Americans” while building railroads or washing clothes.
In the end, we’re all people. People with families and dreams. People who draw strength and understanding from traditional stories, religion, or folklore. People trying to survive. And in the most beautiful cases – people working hard to realize a dream.
Wow, this review got soap-boxy in a hurry. Anyway, I recommend this story. It’s not on my top ten list, but it did make my commute much more enjoyable over the last week or so.