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The Fire Horse Girl Hardcover – January 1, 2013
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Jade Moon, 16, was born in the year of the Fire Horse, a cursed year for girls. She is too bold, too brash, too stubborn, and is told she will bring nothing but sorrow and bad luck to her family. When a stranger named Sterling Promise shows up at her home in China carrying papers to America with her dead uncle's picture, a plan is hatched for Jade Moon, her father, and Sterling Promise to journey to a new country. The long voyage ends with Jade Moon being forced to spend desperate months on Angel Island waiting to be approved to enter California. However, when the headstrong girl realizes that her father and Sterling Promise are using her for their own ends, she sets out on her own. The action picks up when she cuts off her hair, disguises herself as a boy, and ends up working as hired muscle for one of the tongs in San Francisco's Chinatown. Her time working for them infuses the story with a classic 1920s gangster flavor, a refreshing twist on the Chinese immigration story. While some aspects force readers to suspend disbelief (e.g., the fact that Jade Moon is immediately installed in the house of the head of the tong and that she is able to hide her gender for so long), the action and Jade Moon's unbreakable spirit will win them over.-Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington County Public Libraries, VAα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* Seventeen-year-old Jade Moon was born in 1906, the year of the Fire Horse, an ominous sign for Chinese girls. It signals willfulness, stubbornness, and impetuousness, all characteristics that embarrass her father and grandfather and cause derision and cruelty by her too-small village. So when Sterling Promise, a long-lost adopted cousin, appears and proposes she immigrate to America using false “paper son” papers, Jade Moon and her father agree to the plan. Jade Moon views this offer as escape and freedom; her father as the only opportunity to marry off his undesirable daughter. The interminable boat ride—and even more onerous imprisonment off California’s Angel Island—finally transitions to her treacherous entry into America. Jade Moon’s disguise as a young man and her homelessness pave the way for her involvement with the tong, a Chinese organized crime syndicate, and breathtaking danger at every turn. First-time author Honeyman has researched the history of Angel Island and early-twentieth-century San Francisco carefully, yet the ultimate strength of this story is in her character Jade Moon. Her voice, authentic and consistent, transcends this historical fiction/adventure/love story to embrace every young woman who has ever searched for the real person hidden under the veneer of society’s expectations. Grades 8-12. --Frances Bradburn
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Top customer reviews
The Fire Horse Girl isn't just about Jade and her battle to overcome the Fire Horse taboo. This well-written, historical YA novel also shines a light on Chinese immigration in the 1920s and the difficult challenges and prejudices they faced coming to America. In her debut novel, Honeyman also tackles the hardships that Chinese women, in particular, faced as immigrants during that era, often being promised arranged marriages but, instead, finding themselves in brothels or sold as slaves. (Sadly, we see these types of things still happening to some immigrants -- mostly women -- today.) I'm glad I had the opportunity to learn about Angel Island and to meet Jade Moon. It's great to see strong female characters in YA literature.
The Fire Horse Girl is such a book. I am huge fan of Amy Tan and my exposure to Chinese culture came through the many stories she's penned. Kay Honeyman's writing is of the same nature.
Set in 1923, the story begins in a small village in China where we meet the Fire Horse Girl, Jade Moon. I like to call Jade Moon determined, but most call her obstinate, difficult, unruly and simply, bad luck. Why? Because this unfortunate girl was born under the wrong Zodiac Sign. The Zodiac in Eastern traditions dictates much of a person's destiny and in this case, Jade Moon's destiny is to be married off to the fourth son of a villager, a brick maker.
Enter Sterling Promise. An apt name for a man who makes sterling promises but whose betrayal sears Jade Moon to the core and changes the entire course of her life.
Determined by any means to reach America, Sterling Promise comes to Jade's village with a story and papers to travel to America. Why? Because it is a land of riches and can help Jade Moon's family overcome their shoddy luck. Jade Moon's father strikes a deal with Sterling Promise and much to Jade Moon's elation, she too will have the chance to live the American dream.
But that dream is thwarted when Jade Moon, her father and Sterling Promise are detained at Angel Island, the Ellis island of the west. Much of Jade Moon's character evolution happens in this camp. She realizes her dream, like many around her is just that, fantasy. Over time, Jade Moon becomes the camp's prophetic story teller, with stories of hope to fuel the draining energy around her.
Jade Moon soon learns Sterling Promise has bribed a camp guard and will be released to make his fortunes in San Francisco. The shock of his betrayal shifts the story into high gear. Jade Moon changes the course of her destiny much in the same way Sterling Promise tried to change his, through whatever means necessary and finally, she makes it to America, the land of enormous opportunity.
Soon Jade Moon is taken in by the head of a tong (Chinese Mafia.) The story flows quickly from this point as Jade Moon learns the true nature of being an immigrant in America, which isn't the pretty picture Sterling Promise painted for her. Instead, her immigrant dream is marred with gang wars, prostitution, gambling and child labor. Dressed as a man, Jade Moon's exposure to a life less extraordinary further fuels her determination to find a way out and live the life she was meant to live.
Despite my initial inclination, I enjoyed The Fire Horse Girl. The story contrasts traditional Chinese culture against a modern world where that tradition is no longer befitting, only any means of survival is. The story also explores relationship flaws. The moment when Jade Moon says goodbye to her father is beautifully flawed as Jade Moon leaves behind a past that held her back and moves forward to a destiny that despite it's harrowing nature, is worth every moment stringing together of her short life into something meaningful and on her own terms.
Kay Honeyman weaves together a story brilliantly. She exposes the reader to the landscape of Chinese culture during a time when some of the world was embracing the industrial revolution while China held on tightly to its past. As for the cultural intricacies and belief systems, I can fully relate. I too am a product of immigrants from a culture that has many similarities with the Chinese and cringed each time, Nushi or Aunty Wu or one of the women at the camp reminded Jade Moon of her unfortunate birth under the Fire Horse sign.
The most telling moment in the story is when Mr. Hon, who takes Jade Moon in, states a "Fire Horse is bold." And that is how I like to think of Jade Moon. To me, she was born under the right sign.
Kay Honeyman's writing style is fluid, sometimes lyrical -- especially durning those moments when Jade Moon would tell stories during her time at camp. Her storytelling is ripe with wisdom and refreshing at a time when it seems wisdom is nearly lost. She manages to move from one space in time to the next with ease, fully encompassing the place it holds in the story and enriching us with a new experience that is propels Jade Moon's story forward.
Jade Moon's story ends where it begins, bantering with a man who is the perfect match for The Fire Horse Girl, the ending to a book that empowered a girl to use her misfortune and find her destiny in a world only a Fire Horse Girl can contend with.
My rating - a five-star must read.
The book is suppose to be geared to teen fiction, but everyone in our group really enjoyed the book. Jade Moon's character and Sterling Promise's character are rich and well developed. The historical fiction is well researched. I plan to read Interference also by the author Kay Honeyman.
Most recent customer reviews
A captivating gem of a story—an absolute treasure.Read more