I Am Canada: Blood and Iron
Building the Railway, Lee Heen-gwong, British Columbia, 1882
by Paul Yee
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The incredible sacrifices made by Chinese workers building the transcontinental railway are revealed in this powerful novel.
Heen's father and grandfather have brought their family in China to the brink of ruin with their gambling habits. To solve their money troubles, Heen and his father come to Canada to build the railway — a decision plagued by disaster.
The living conditions provided for workers are wretched and work on the railway is excruciating. Transporting tons of gravel and working in tunnels about to be dynamited proves to be deadly for many of his co-workers. Soon the friction between the Chinese workers and the whites, who barely acknowledge these deaths, reaches a fevered pitch. As an added stress, Heen's father has found some men to gamble with, which puts all of their earnings at risk.
Heen's only solace is his journal, where his chilling observations of the injustice and peril heaped upon the workers serve as an important testament to this dramatic era in Canadian history.
- Scholastic Canada Ltd, January 2012
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