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Outrun the Moon

by Stacey Lee

Published by Putnam, 2016
391 pages
ISBN: 978-0-399-17541-1

Ages 11-15

Living in San Francisco Chinatown in 1906, teenage Mercy Wong wants to become a business woman to support her family. Smart and spirited, she negotiates her way into a prestigious, whites-only girls’ school for the educational advantage she’s sure it will provide. The racism Mercy and her Chinatown community experience is an essential part of an insightful and engaging work that is part boarding school story, with Mercy navigating relationships as a social and cultural outsider, and part riveting account of the San Francisco earthquake. Prior to the earthquake, Mercy facilitates a meeting between the leaders of the Chinese Benevolent Association and a white-owned business that wants Chinatown customers—agreeing to do so was how she leveraged the business owner’s support of her entry to the school (his daughter becomes Mercy’s prickly roommate). In the quake’s aftermath, Mercy struggles with devastating losses to her family, her community, and the city a whole. But social and racial barriers break down as she and her classmates cooperate to survive. Sheltering in a city park along with thousands of others, real friendships begin to form as the young women extend kindness across lines of race and class to one another and other refugees, reaching out with intentionality. Author Lee notes that cross-cultural goodwill like this, common after the quake, sadly did not last. She also explains where she took liberties, especially regarding the gender and racial boundaries she allowed herself to imagine Mercy was able to cross in that time.©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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