After my last book review, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman–Book Review, I was in the mood for something lighter. The Paper Daughters of Chinatown fit the bill. Based on the life of Donaldina Cameron, who worked at the Occidental Mission Home for Girls in San Francisco for 39 years, it illuminates the plight of young women who were tricked into immigrating to the United States as “paper daughters” — claiming to be relatives of Chinese already living here. Upon arrival, instead of a rich husband, they found themselves sold into slavery, in many cases forced prostitution. The Mission (which still exists and is now called The Cameron House) rescued and educated them.
The book covers only the first decade of Miss Cameron’s involvement with the Mission Home. Each chapter begins with an epigraph citation taken from an actual document from the time period, describing the Mission’s work and vision. There are chapter notes at the back explaining the historical background each character and rescue described is based upon. Discussion questions and a selected bibliography for further reading are also included.
Donaldina (who was called Dolly by friends) is an inspiring Christian role model for all of us. She came to see the Mission as her calling, and the Chinese girls she rescued and mentored as her true daughters. They called her “Lo Mo” which is a term of affection translated as “Old Mother.”
The mission of the Cameron House has changed, but it continues to serve the needs of Asian immigrant families in San Francisco through counseling, domestic violence intervention, food distribution, support groups, after school programs and more. You can check out their website: http://CameronHouse.org for additional information. Donaldina’s work has become a lasting legacy.
VERDICT: 5 Stars. This is an easy read, but edifying. It would be a good choice for a Book Club.
Human trafficking is still an issue today. For more on this topic see: