Back in Time to the 1890s
Unswept Graves is a gripping story that starts in the present day in a small Nebraskan town about to celebrate its annual Founders’ Day. The founders were said to include young Jasmine’s Wu’s great-great-grandparents, Charlie and Hannah Fong. Jasmine and her friend ‘Oz’ get to find out the Fongs’ story when they are suddenly and magically transported by her ancestors’ mysterious pendant back in time to the Chinatown of San Francisco in the late 1890s.
They find out that it was a dangerous, brutal time to be Chinese, especially for young girls. Jasmine is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Oz has to dress as a boy to rescue her and get her to the shelter of the Mission House. They meet Charlie Fong and somehow they have to make sure that the future happens. In the end, the founders and ancestors are honored as they should be and Jasmine discovers her heritage.
The title refers to the traditional Chinese festival of Ching Ming, or ‘Grave Sweeping Day” when families pay tribute to their heir ancestors and tend to their family gravesites. Author Robert Black says his purpose is “ to give readers a taste of what life used to be like – and an experience of being there. I hope too they will learn the same lesson that Jasmine learns during her trip to the past, about the challenges and hardships people had to face, and the determination it took to survive all that.”
Black’s research into the life of Chinese immigrants revealed shocking anti-Chinese prejudice in the US at the time, and also the dangerous work of rescuing slave girls by the Presbyterian Mission Home in San Francisco. The home still exists on Sacramento Street. It is now Cameron House, a Chinese community center.