The Paper Daughters of Chinatown by Heather B. Moore

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I first learned about paper wives and paper daughters in a different historical fiction story, and I knew it was a topic I wanted to know more about. When I came across this book, I knew this was what I had been searching for. This was a wonderful mix of fiction and real historic information. I felt like I was able to learn a lot and be swept away by a story.

The Paper Daughters of Chinatown focuses on Donaldina Cameron’s work at the Occidental Mission Home for Girls in San Francisco. We follow 15 years of her story in saving women and children from the clutches of opium dens and prostitution rings.

I loved the way the chapters flowed from one story to another. Sometimes the POV alternates between Donaldina and a young Chinese girl taken from her home and brought to San Francisco. Both perspectives are wonderful, and I loved the addition of the perspective from one of the girls.

Each chapter has a real excerpt from an interview, a newspaper article, or a journal. I really enjoyed these snippets of historical information. It helped to round out the story, and I thought it was such a wonderful addition to the book.

Donaldina, “Dolly”, was an amazing main character. She was easy to like, I mean who wouldn’t like a woman that breaks into brothels to rescue women asking for help? But, I really liked the way she is written. We get to see her struggles with her job, how she worries about what she should or shouldn’t do, how she takes risks to save just one life. She clearly becomes a woman to look up to, and I loved her.

My only complaint with the story is that at times, it moved too fast. It’s a fairly well-sized novel, so I don’t necessarily want it to be longer, but I wanted some portions of the story to have last a little longer, and have some additional information. The book spans 15 years, so there is a lot to talk about. I got connected to some of the girls, and I just wanted a bit more of their story.

Overall, I absolutely loved this one! It’s historical fiction that you can enjoy well-researched details and a great story!

To Read or Not To Read:

If you enjoy historical fiction around real events and people, The Paper Daughters of Chinatown is one you might enjoy!

Also, the book that originally introduced me to the concept of a paper wife or daughter was Paper Wife by Laila Ibrahim! It was also amazing!

Where to Find This Book:

The Paper Daughters of Chinatown by Heather B. Moore is available at these sites.

Amazon ~ Kindle ~ Goodreads


Based on true events, The Paper Daughters of Chinatown in a powerful story about a largely unknown chapter in history and the women who emerged as heroes.

In the late nineteenth century, San Francisco is a booming city with a dark side, one in which a powerful underground organization—the criminal tong—buys and sells young Chinese women into prostitution and slavery. These “paper daughters,” so called because fake documents gain them entry to America but leave them without legal identity, generally have no recourse. But the Occidental Mission Home for Girls is one bright spot of hope and help.

Told in alternating chapters, this rich narrative follows the stories of young Donaldina Cameron who works in the mission home, and Mei Lien, a “paper daughter” who thinks she is coming to America for an arranged marriage but instead is sold into a life of shame and despair.

Donaldina, a real-life pioneering advocate for social justice, bravely stands up to corrupt officials and violent gangs, helping to win freedom for thousands of Chinese women. Mei Lien endures heartbreak and betrayal in her search for hope, belonging, and love. Their stories merge in this gripping account of the courage and determination that helped shape a new course of women’s history in America.

Just the Facts:

The Paper Daughters of Chinatown by Heather B. Moore
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page Count: 384 pages
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Pub Date: September 1, 2020


I was provided a gifted copy of this book for free. I am leaving my review voluntarily.

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