Friday, April 29, 2016

Y: Laurence Yep & DRAGONWINGS

"I get the ideas from everything. Children sometimes think you have to have special experiences to write, but good writing brings out what's special in ordinary things." -Laurence Yep

Lawrence Yep's DRAGONWINGS (HarperCollins, MG) begins in 1903 when Moon Shadow, 8, leaves the only home he has known in China to live with his father, Windrider, who has been working in San Francisco to support his family.  Everything about America- the food, the houses, the people- fascinates Moon Shadow. Although Moon Shadow and Windrider regularly experience racism, they also make friends with the kind Miss Whitlaw her niece, Robin. Despite the challenges they face in their day-to-day lives, Moon Shadow and Windrider hold onto their gumption and work three years to build an airplane named Dragonwings that Windrider flies in 1910. 

While I've read a number of historical fiction stories set in the early 20th century San Francisco with the predictable Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake (recorded magnitude: 7.8), the depiction of the 1906 earthquake in DRAGONWINGS is what I consider a very credible interpretation of an earthquake. I might be a more particular reader when it comes to earthquake fiction because I was a young child living in the City of San Francisco when, during the World Series, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake hit (recorded magnitude: 6.9). 63 people died, thousands were injured, an East Bay freeway collapsed, as did a part of the Bay Bridge. I was at home when it happened- I was reaching for something on a shelf when I felt the first shake. What a strange day it was, how things happened quickly and slowly at the same time, and how things were irreversibly changed for some, but remained the same for others...And in DRAGONWINGS, after Moon Shadow and Windrider help others in the aftermath of the 1906 Earthquake, they might momentarily forget that that they're foreigners in a new country until a police officer demands that the two aren't allowed to dine with a white woman. I think this part of the story shows that in spite of the changes going on around the father and son, some things still remain the same.

Have you read DRAGONWINGS? Have you ever been in a natural disaster? If so, what do you remember about it?


Random Musings said...

Sounds like a good read. Isn't it funny the little details you can remember when something like that happens!

Jo said...

Nope not experienced a quake although have felt a couple of tremors since living in Canada. I remember the quake you mentioned, the freeway collapse in particular. I was NOT a young child though.

Doree Weller said...

Huh, that sounds interesting. I've been in California a few times when there have been tremors, but I've never been through an earthquake of any magnitude.
@DoreeWeller from
Doree Weller’s Blog

Stephanie Faris said...

I can't imagine how terrifying an earthquake would be. I've never been through one. We have tornadoes here sometimes, and I'm told we're near a major fault line but so far we've avoided it.

Pat Hatt said...

Been in a hurricane before, pretty much screwed up most of the province for a week haha

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

I've never been through an earthquake that was big enough to feel. Ironically, when an earthquake hit my part of eastern PA a few years ago, I was in California at the time.

I've been through several hurricanes and blizzards and ice storms. The main upside to them is that they're predictable, unlike earthquakes. Blizzards can be quite cozy if you have supplies and the power doesn't go out!

Liz A. said...

I haven't read this one, but I have seen that it was assigned to various middle school classes. I didn't realize it took place during the earthquake.

As for natural disasters, I've been in my share of earthquakes. The southern California ones. In fact, some of my favorite high school memories involve earthquakes. (There was a big one my junior year in October, and the rest of the school year we were plagued with aftershocks.)

Liz A. from Laws of Gravity

Elizabeth said...

This book sounds fascinating! I like the name Moon Shadow. As for natural disasters, I live in Oklahoma, which is notorious for crazy weather. Thankfully, I've never seen a tornado in person, but we have had pretty bad wind damage. I've also been through two ice storms and my family had no electricity for 12 days after that 1st storm. I've also experienced a minor earthquake and it was such a strange experience.

JazzFeathers said...

I have never heard of this book, but now I really want to read it. Early XX century stories are particularly close to my heart.

And the earthquake. A few years ago, we had a very bad earthquake here in Italy. It happened many kilometres away from where I live, but we felt it anyway. What stroke me the most is the sense of impotence. The earth shakes and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it. You just have to hope for the best and cope with what she leaves in her wake.

Claire Annette said...

I haven't read this but your review makes me want to go to the library and get it.

Growing up in Southern California I experienced a number of earthquakes and fires which spread quickly by the Santa Ana Winds.

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