Review: Four Sparrows

Four Sparrows: A Tale of Race and Survival in the California Gold Rush

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the story of an ensemble cast of different races set amidst the California gold rush in 1850. The one major aspect that I think this book did well was acknowledge that San Francisco in 1850 didn’t look like the rest of the country, it also didn’t look like it does today. The main characters of this piece are Filipino, Chinese, Irish, Mexican, Australian, Chilean, Argentinian, American, and others. Daniel, the author, did a great job at identifying important conversations about race relations that were important then, and are very timely today. Though this is a work of fiction it is evident that a great deal of research went into telling as authentic a story as possible when explaining who these characters were and what their lives would have been like.

I firmly believe that the context of this story was well fleshed out, genuine, and intriguing but there were a couple of weak areas in the storytelling. Because there were so many characters, some of which only have minor roles or make only a few spread out appearances, it was hard to keep track of who was who. In scenes where multiple characters were traveling together and conversing, it was difficult knowing who was speaking. The one major flaw in the book was the narrator who took too much liberty in telling me things about the characters and story that should have unfolded in the story itself or reiterating information I would have concluded on my own. It was as if I was being told what to think and how to feel as opposed to letting the actions of the characters and consequences of the story speak to me on their own.

Nonetheless, I was able to connect with this story as it spoke to many of my own experiences. The relation between culture and emigration/immigration, fitting in while not losing your own cultural values, and understanding the role of what it means to “pass off” as white/american were all story elements that struck a cord in the world I live in today. I was impressed that there was no sugar-coating and that characters who were/are considered “different” met realistic fates. This is no fairy-tale and I appreciate that. I hope Daniel Roddick continues to write stories that inform on important topics as this book did and look forward to reading his next novel.

If you are studying or interested in history, sociology, and ethnic studies then I suggest you give this book a read. You can buy a copy here.

Review: Four Sparrows Review: Four Sparrows Reviewed by Unknown on 12:44 Rating: 5

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