From My Bookshelf: Kelli Estes

By Lynn Willoughby
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The Girl Who Wrote in Silk Kelli EstesHistory is full of brutality, most of it unrecorded.  We in Canada have just heard the results of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but we cannot pat ourselves on the back over how we handled Chinese citizens after the railway was completed, nor what we did with our Japanese citizens during WWII.
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This debut novel deals with the racism surrounding the Chinese Exclusion Act in the USA in 1862.  The hatred, the bigotry and the untold murders are almost beyond belief.  The human capacity for forgiveness, the patience and resilience make for a charming story with an historical backdrop.
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Mei Lien was born in Seattle – the only home she has ever known.  Although her mother died shortly after her birth she was lovingly raised by her father and grandmother until the terrible day in February of 1886 when rioters forced all the Chinese on board a steamer supposedly bound for China.  What Mei Lien soon discovered was that they would all be dumped overboard into the icy waters of Juan de Fuca Strait to perish.  The USA didn’t want them any more!
However, Mei Lien is rescued and goes on to tell this story by embroidering it on a silk robe.
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While we read Mei Lien’s story it coincides with Inara’s story, in the same location.  Her aunt left her an island estate which Dahlia hopes she will convert to a B & B.  During the construction, Inara discovers an embroidered sleeve of a silk robe, and she realizes it has been hidden for a reason.  Inara contacts an expert to research the events stitched on the sleeve.  A terrible family secret comes to light and Inara holds the power of her family’s history literally in her hand.  Will she continue the cover up?
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This novel is based on true events and proves that the smallest things can reveal history, move our emotions and memories and the stories we all share.
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Who Knew?
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Many Chinese gained entry into the USA by purchasing fraudulent documentation identifying them as American citizens calling themselves sons of a true citizen or “paper son”.  The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was finally repealed in December, 2943.

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