UMW Library Corner


By Sherry Howie, Ph.D.

 Our church library, located off the hall towards the community room, holds excellent book selections for the reading pleasure of church members. New books are ordered each year that keep up with current topics and interests. The UMW books are to the right as you enter, and may be checked out simply by writing one’s name on the inside card. Below is a review of a new book, a historical fiction of San Francisco’s Chinatown brothels in 1898. This true history is mostly unknown to many of us.

 Jeffrey Staley, author of Gum Moon (Golden Gate in Cantonese), had information about this history firsthand.  The life of his wife’s grandmother is the basis for the main character Mei Chun Lai who was sold by her parents for money at the age of 3 to a cruel brothel keeper.  Chun is treated as a slave and is prepared to climb the stairs to perform later as a prostitute when she grows up.  She survives a plague quarantine and is befriended by a young newspaper journalist and her husband, a lawyer for civil rights.  He takes Chun’s case for adoption to court several times to establish parental authority.

 Very active in rescue attempts at the time was the Methodist Home Missions Society, a group of dedicated women who rescued abused children involved in human trafficking. A young Methodist woman rescues Chun and places her in a Home run by the Mission.  The orphan Home is destroyed in an earthquake and fire in 1906, but Chun (rechristened Maud) survives. 

To raise funds to rebuild the Home in San Francisco for the orphans, Maud, then 13, and seven other children ride a train on a cross-country singing tour all the way to Washington D.C. They even sing for President Theodore  Roosevelt in the White House.  Maud has learned to play the piano, and accompanies the group for audiences mostly in churches across the U.S.  The children are met with great curiosity for their “exotic” and “oriental”  performances, even though they are all American born and speak English well.

This is a fascinating story with compelling characters and true historical events.  It is an easy read that keeps getting more interesting as the story unfolds.  I enjoyed it and highly recommend it to all church members. Reading now will take our minds off our current isolation and social distancing, especially by engaging with such a well-written novel.

 *This is a review of one of the 6 new books purchased by the Mesquite United Methodist Women’s Ministry for the upcoming year’s reading program.  Check all of these books out!