The Lost Garden Essay - Critical Context

Laurence Yep

Critical Context

The Lost Garden reveals the prolific, award-winning author’s source for his books dealing with Chinese American experiences. Readers find a believable portrait of the author as a sensitive, imaginative child, struggling to belong and to find his cultural identity.

Yep has won numerous awards, among them the Children’s Book Award, the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award, and the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award. Dragonwings was named a Newbery Honor Book; it is based on a newspaper clipping about a Chinese immigrant who invented a successful flying machine a few years after the Wright Brothers. This book is especially strong in its coverage of Chinese traditions and beliefs. Child of the Owl won a Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Award. Yep set the story in a more contemporary Chinatown, where a young Chinese American girl discovers her heritage through Chinese folklore and history. As autobiographical fiction, Yep’s Sea Glass deals with conflict between generations. Star Fisher is about a Chinese family overcoming prejudice in West Virginia during the late 1920’s. All of Yep’s books cover themes such as poverty, racial discrimination, and loss of identity. In Dragon’s Gate (1993), which was also named a Newbery Honor Book, a boy in 1867 China accidentally kills a Manchu and is sent to America to join his father, who is helping build a tunnel for the transcontinental railroad through the Sierra Nevada Mountains; some of the same characters also appeared in The Serpent’s Children (1984) and Mountain Light (1985).

Many of Yep’s fantasy and science-fiction novels explore the theme of alienation, such as Sweetwater (1973) and Dragon of the Lost Sea (1982). Other genres in which Yep writes include the folktale, mystery, and horror story.