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The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball

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Member Reviews

The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball by Dori Jones Yang is an outstanding book! While this story is based upon the true, but little-known events surrounding a group of young Chinese boys who came to study in New England during the 1870s, the underlying themes are very relevant to today.The theme of, wanting to fit in with everyone else but also wanting to hold onto your own heritage is addressed extremely well in this engaging story. 

Although the book is supposed to be for readers 10 to 14, adults will enjoy the book. I certainly did! Highly recommende
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This was an excellent book.

Leon and Carson (both Americanized names) were sent to the northern part of the United States from their homeland, China, with the purpose of learning to speak English and to study American technological advancements in order to modernize China. That is a tall order but the boys, along with their 118 other Chinese counterparts have been commissioned by the Emperor and will try their best to honor their country and families.

For Leon, America is a land of curiosity with trains, English and baseball. And he takes to it easily. For Carson, his older brother, the struggle between cultures and his desires hinders his ability to assimilate to the American culture and English language. The struggle begins with Leon's attempts to honor his older brother, the father of his American home and his heart. Is he becoming too American...or is he fulfilling what the Chinese government sent him there for?
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Leon (Americanized name) and his older brother have been sent from China to study in America.  The goal is to learn English and to learn more about technical advances and then take that knowledge back to China with them.  At first, Carson (Americanized name) the older brother seems to have all the advantages - age, he was a better student in China, and as eldest he deserves more respect.  But whether it is from his injury on the train when robbers strike, disappointment over a failed love interest, or just an inability to learn English, Carson soon becomes bitter and angry which leaves Leon wondering if he should continue to obey his older brother or strive for his American education.

This was a strong historical fiction book and a good luck at the difficulties any immigrant might experience but particularly the Chinese experience in the 1800s.
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It’s sometimes too easy to forget that the way we live (whether in Canada, the United States, or China) is not the only way. The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball explores just how jarring moving halfway around the world can be—particularly for children.

The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball follows two brothers, Woo Ka-Leong and Elder Brother Woo Ka-Sun, as they move from their village in Southern China to Suffield, Connecticut in 1875. They are part of a group of 120 boys that the Imperial Government of China is sending to the United States as part of the Chinese Educational Mission. Their task is to learn English, complete college degrees, and return home to help transform China to a strong, modern country.

The boys participating in the Chinese Educational Mission are sent to the United States with almost a year of training in the English language (enough to be polite), descriptions of American culture, and many admonitions: do not act “too American,” do not join a church (although they must attend with their host families), do not cut the long braid that all Chinese men and boys wear as a symbol of loyalty to the emperor, and avoid the American frivolity called “baseball.”

Ka-Leong and Ka-Sun are placed with the Swann family: Reverend Swann, his wife, and their two daughters, Julia and Charlotte. The Swanns immediately begin calling the boys Leon and Carson, deciding their Chinese names are simply too difficult to pronounce. A day later, Carson, who is the more serious and studious of the two brothers, is dismayed to learn that their teacher will be a woman.

This is just the beginning of the clash of the two cultures. As the boys’ time in America continues, they are teased by children and adults for their braids and their clothing. They struggle to learn the English language and to continue their own Chinese studies after their lessons. They are stunned by aspects of American culture that they were unprepared for, in particular, the role and treatment of women.

Author Dori Jones Yang has done a fantastic job identifying many ways in which the cultures of 1870s China and 1870s America differed. But even more impressive is her interpretation of how the Chinese boys might have responded to these disparities. Although Leon and Carson are brothers and come from the same home and upbringing, their reactions to life in America, and their willingness to adapt to this new life, are dissimilar.

I was enamored with this tale of two brothers and could not put it down. Ms. Yang’s exploration of the relationship between Leon and Carson was brilliant. I loved the use of baseball to symbolize one brother’s attraction to American culture, while he pulled away from both his brother and the life in which he was raised.

The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball is based on the true story of the Chinese Educational Mission, in which the emperor of China sent 120 boys ages eleven through sixteen to study in America. They stayed with host families in Connecticut and western Massachusetts. You’ll have to read the book to learn whether the Mission was successful!

I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

Dori Jones Yang is the author of a number of books, from non-fiction to YA novels to children’s readers. Her website is

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I read this book at the beginning of the summer, and unfortunately, my review didn't save. I can tell you I LOVED this book. I knew nothing about 120 Chinese boys who were brought to America for several years in the 1870s to modernize their education so they could return home and use their knowledge helping China (though the book is fiction, it is based on an actual event I history).
The two brothers in this book have completely different responses to American culture, and I enjoyed seeing both the good, and the bad, of Western culture through their eyes. Though the elder brother's behaviour is often abusive, I think it's important to remember the time period and perspective from which the story was told.
A great historical read, I highly recommend this one.
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The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball

by Dori Jones Yang

SparkPress (a BookSparks imprint)

Children's Fiction , Multicultural Interest

Pub Date 15 Aug 2017 

I am reviewing a copy of The Forbidden Temptation of Football through Sparkpress and Netgalley:

Leon is a twelve year old boy determined to live with an American family, study hard and come back to modernize Child but Leon has a curious nature and the American past time of Baseball fascinated him.

Will Leon one of 120 boys sent to New England by the Emperor of China, be able to resist this temptation?  Will he make his family and the Emperor proud?  Or will he discover that some temptations are far to hard to resist?

I give The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball five out of five stars.

Happy Reading.
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