Yong: The Journey of An Unworthy Son by Janeen Brian
Published by Walker Books Australia
Thirteen-year old Yong’s life is shattered when his father announces they will leave their home in Guangdong, China to seek gold on the fields of Ballarat. Yong wants nothing more than to stay close to his remaining family and friend Chen, but as firstborn son he has little choice but to uphold his family’s honour and obey. Father and son embark on a dangerous journey that will test Yong to the limits of his endurance.
Set in the mid-1800s, Yong delivers a harrowing account of the cruel treatment, near starvation and disease that the Chinese undergo on their travels. Yong’s sense of honour and the expectations placed on him by his family and culture cause him to wrestle constantly with anger, guilt and insecurity. His father shows him little affection and it is only after the kind, one-eyed Mr Chung befriends him that Yong begins to recognise his own worth. When tragedy strikes, the travellers look to Yong to lead them towards journey’s end and the promise of a better life.
Told in first person present, the story provides a clear, detailed and evocative view of the hardships faced by Chinese ‘sojourners’. The immigrants face prejudice and violence from non-Chinese settlers from the moment they land, in some ways reflective of the current treatment of refugees seeking safety and shelter in Australia. The book also provides insight into the strict adherence to rules governing honour, duty and reverence of ancestors during the period.
Recommended as an engaging, well-written historical novel for readers in Years 4-6. Teacher’s Notes and worksheets are available at Booktopia.
You can read more about Janeen and view a book trailer for Yong here
Award-winning author Janeen Brian has written over 80 books in genres ranging from picture books to poetry, short fiction, nonfiction and novels.
CKT Book Reviewer
Author: Janeen Brian
Title: Yong: The Journey of An Unworthy Son
Publisher: Walker Books Australia
Published: August 2016