Tag Archives: Kay Honeyman

10 Diverse YA Historicals About Girls

In honor of Women’s History Month, here are 10 diverse young adult historical novels about girls. Descriptions are from Worldcat.

Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis (Alfred A. Knopf)

Teens Octavia and Tali learn about strength, independence, and courage when they are forced to take a car trip with their grandmother, who tells about growing up Black in 1940s Alabama and serving in Europe during World War II as a member of the Women’s Army Corps.

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland (Houghton Mifflin)

Seventeen-year-old Louisa Cosgrove is locked away in the Wildthorn Hall mental institution, where she is stripped of her identity and left to wonder who has tried to destroy her life.

The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist by Margarita Engle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

In free verse, evokes the voice of Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, a book-loving writer, feminist, and abolitionist who courageously fought injustice in nineteenth-century Cuba. Includes historical notes, excerpts from her writings, biographical information, and source notes.

Willow by Tonya Cherie Hegamin (Candlewick Press)

In 1848 Willow, a fifteen-year-old educated slave girl, faces an inconceivable choice – between bondage and freedom, family and love – as free born, seventeen-year-old Cato, a black man, takes it upon himself to sneak as many fugitive slaves to freedom as he can on the Mason-Dixon Line.

The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman (Arthur A. Levine Books)

When Jade Moon, born in the unlucky year of the Fire Horse, and her father immigrate to America in 1923 and are detained at Angel Island Immigration Station, Jade Moon is determined to find a way through and prove that she is not cursed.

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano (Scholastic)

It is 1969 in Spanish Harlem, and fourteen-year-old Evelyn Serrano is trying hard to break free from her conservative Puerto Rican surroundings, but when her activist grandmother comes to stay and the neighborhood protests start, things get a lot more complicated–and dangerous.

Anahita’s Woven Riddle by Meghan Nuttall Sayres (Amulet)

In Iran, more than 100 years ago, a young girl with three suitors gets permission from her father and a holy man to weave into her wedding rug a riddle to be solved by her future husband, which will ensure that he has wit to match hers.

Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman (Penguin)

In India, in 1941, when her father becomes brain-damaged in a non-violent protest march, fifteen-year-old Vidya and her family are forced to move in with her father’s extended family and become accustomed to a totally different way of life.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion)

When young American pilot Rose Justice is captured by Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp, she finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery, and friendship of her fellow prisoners.

Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang (Delacorte)

Emmajin, the sixteen-year-old eldest granddaughter of Khublai Khan, becomes a warrior and falls in love with explorer Marco Polo in thirteenth-century China.

Poetry on Angel Island

By Kay Honeyman

I thought I knew what American immigration looked like. I’d seen the pictures in history books and read the stories: People from all over the world arrived at Ellis Island, where Lady Liberty welcomed them with words from Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus”: “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

I did not know that on the opposite coast of America was another island where immigrants landed.

Angel Island is the Ellis Island of the West off the coast of San Francisco. Over 300,000 immigrants landed on its shore from 1910-1940, most of them Chinese. The officials there were tasked with enforcing the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first major law that restricted immigration to the United States. While immigrants to Ellis Island were processed in hours, immigrants to Angel Island were detained for months, even years.

Angel Island poetry on wall. Photo by Robert Wagner.

This island didn’t have a statue. It had wire fences and guards. It separated wives from their husbands and men from their children. People spent their days locked in barracks, waiting for permission to land in America. There was not poem of welcome and hope like the one on Ellis Island, so they wrote their own poems on the wooden planks that lined the men’s barracks. These poems are tibishi poems, or poems of travelers. In China, they are carved on the walls of a place, spreading information from traveller to traveller.

The poems at Angel Island tell tales of disappointment and heartache, frustration and disappointment. They demanded justice for and offered encouragement to those detained on Angel Island, and they give understanding to people today. They are poems for the lost and poems for the seeking. They speak a bitterness, weariness, and determination to survive.

I think it was these poems that first drew me to the subject of Angel Island. When I heard about the Angel Island Immigration Station, it was these poems, hand- carved into its walls that made it more than a place on a map. I knew Jade Moon would love these poems too, and I wanted desperately to find a way to allow her to see them (even if it meant sneaking her into the men’s barracks).

I brought two children to America from China, so I am particularly aware of and grateful for our long tradition of immigration. I am grateful for the promises America makes at Ellis Island because it draws immigrants here. But I am also grateful for the poets at Angel Island who came believing they too would be welcomed with open arms but who instead had to immediately face the sacrifices behind America’s promise. These poems open our eyes to the prisons people build with boards and nails and the ones they build with laws and labels. They remind those of us who have risked everything for the impossible that we are part of a long tradition of travellers and dreamers.

If you’d like to know more about the poems found on Angel Island…

  • Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940 by Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim, and Judy Yung — The poems on this page were translations from this book.
  • Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation (http://aiisf.org) – This site is full of information about Angel Island, but my favorite feature is the Immigrant Voices tab (http://aiisf.org/immigrant-voices). It contains stories and interviews from people who immigrated to America.

Jade Moon is a Fire Horse — the worst sign in the Chinese zodiac for girls, said to make them stubborn, willful, and far too imaginative. But while her family despairs of marrying her off, she has a passionate heart and powerful dreams, and wants only to find a way to make them come true.

Then a young man named Sterling Promise comes to their village to offer Jade Moon and her father a chance to go to America. While Sterling Promise’s smooth manners couldn’t be more different from her own impulsive nature, Jade Moon falls in love with him on the long voyage. But America in 1923 doesn’t want to admit many Chinese, and when they are detained at Angel Island, the “Ellis Island of the West,” she discovers a betrayal that destroys all her dreams. To get into America, much less survive there, Jade Moon will have to use all her stubbornness and will to break a new path … one as brave and dangerous as only a Fire Horse girl can imagine.

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Kay Honeyman lives in Dallas, TX where she teaches eighth-grade English. She became fascinated with the history of Chinese immigration to the United States when she and her husband decided to adopt from China. They adopted their son in 2010 and their daughter in 2012. The Fire Horse Girl (published by Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic) is Kay’s debut novel. You can find her on the web at http://kayhoneyman.com.