Dori Jones Yang
Reviewed by Marten Weldon (age 12) for Reader Views (9/17)
“The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball” by Dori Jones Yang is historical fiction novel about eleven-year-old Woo Ka-Leong (Leon) and his fourteen-year-old brother Ka-Son (Carson). In 1876, the Chinese brothers were part of the Chinese Educational Mission to the United States. They were sent to live with a family in Connecticut, to learn English, go to school, eventually graduate from college, and bring technology back to China.
It was a duty to the Emperor and a privilege to be selected for the Chinese Educational Mission. Only one hundred and twenty of the smartest boys were chosen. In addition to going to American schools, they had to keep up their studies in Chinese so they would be able to communicate when they got home. They had to continue to demonstrate their loyalty to the Emperor by wearing a long braid, and Leon had to always obey his elder brother because it was the Chinese way. This was very difficult because Elder Brother did not like America and did not want Leon to play baseball or become Americanized.
Leon was the main character. He was frisky and open to new ideas and experiences but was held back by Chinese tradition enforced by Elder Brother. When Leon first arrived, American culture felt very unusual. For instance, walking into a sick person’s house was considered very dangerous to Chinese people, and he refused to carry a basket that been inside a sick person’s house. After a while and some struggle, American culture rubbed off on Leon and he found himself speaking up and participating in American life, including baseball.
The storyline focuses less on baseball than the title would lead you to believe. There is enough baseball included if you are a baseball fan, but not too much if you are not. I liked this book because it was very engaging. I learned a lot about Chinese culture, and as a younger brother, I could relate to brothers being brothers. There is also a Fun Facts section at the end of the book with some interesting historical information. “The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball” by Dori Jones Yang was very well written, and I would recommend it to everyone!