Confronting American racism in the early 20th century

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When the Titanic sailed, there were just 8 Chinese passengers aboard. In Luck of the Titanic, Stacey Lee creates another Chinese passenger, a twin for one of the men on board. Valora was supposed to travel as a companion to the wealthy Mrs. Sloane, but she died before the sailing of the ship. Instead, denied boarding based on her Chinese heritage, Valora sneaks on to the ship. Her goal is to find her brother, and convince an investor in the Ringling Brothers Circus that they are the acrobatic act that the circus needs.

I've rated this as a three star book entirely based on my enjoyment of the story, not as a reflection on any structural issues with the plot or characters. When the extent of a tragedy is so influenced by human foibles (why weren't there more lifeboats? Why did half empty life boats sail away from the ship? Why did only one boat go back to help look for survivors?) I find it difficult to separate my frustration with people from the story. Which, I suppose, is part of the purpose: we should learn from history, and we should be upset by the poor decisions of humanity's shared past. More unfamiliar for me was the depiction of the extent of the racism experienced by the Chinese passengers. I knew that there is a substantial history of racism against Chinese immigrants in the US, but I didn't realize how rigidly codified it was, or how recently that discrimination was part of US law.

Definitely a worthwhile read, just prepare for frustration with historical reality.