SERAFINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK
In light of immigration remaining a hot topic, I finally decided to purchase this book that talks about what it says on the tin: the Chinese in Mexico. A few years ago I read a couple of articles (on the Huffington Post and NPR I think) about the presence of Chinese people in Mexico and how that group came to be. I've heard of Chinese people coming to the US but what drew them to Mexico?
Turns out the immigration laws and the Chinese Exclusion Act in the US led to "collateral damage" of sorts, where Chinese people (mostly men) settled in Mexico instead. The book looks at how and why these Chinese immigrants came to Mexico, some intentionally, others because they could not get into the US. How they built businesses, how they managed movement between Mexico, the US and China, how they dealt with Sinophobia, how they integrated with the locals, etc.
Overall it was fascinating. A mostly unintended consequence (perhaps) of the US immigration laws led to the creation of this community that was interesting to learn about. It was also sad to see that the same experiences of immigrants happen to the Chinese there: some were resented for their business success, their children were considered not Mexican, eventually a group of them would be driven out of one part of Mexico. It's a story that we have seen happening before and it happens again.
I also wish the author had brought up the book to more "modern" times. As the cover says, it's from about 1882-1940. The book was published in 2011 so I was disappointed not to see more about present day or at least a little closer to it. He does have some thoughts on how to integrate discussing a group like these Chinese-Mexicans into college courses and so I hope there will be more work/articles about them.
That said, the book is dry. The topic kept me interested because I really wanted to learn more after reading those articles but this book would very much be a text for a college program. I wish I could have picked it up at the library or found it as a bargain buy but even the used versions that I could find were not all that much cheaper. But I wanted to know and so I'm glad I had a chance to read it.
City of Miracles is the final book in the trilogy that starts with City of Stairs and continues with City of Blades, though it's set 13 years after the previous book in the series. As I get older, I find myself appreciating books which have grown-up characters at their heart, not just some pre-ordained teenager's quest and City of Miracles continues to give me what I want - what I've described to people as 'grumpy olds doing stuff'. Sure, there are teenagers here too but they're the supporting cast rather than the centre of things in a lot of ways.
The books are set in a world where miracles were once commonplace and the first book takes place in the direct aftermath of a war which has led to the death of the majority of the Divinities which once provided those miracles. The second and third books are about various things trying to fill the void left by those Divinities, either with a warrior class which had previously served them returning unexpectedly or with the offspring of said Divinities trying to claw their way to power.
The main character in City of Miracles is Sigrud, who also appears in the previous books, and who'd fled to self-imposed exile in the previous volume. As we meet him again, we discover he's been waiting for a sign he can return, which had never come, and now the person he'd expected to call him back has been killed. This assassination is all part of the plan of Nokov, who is attempting to gather power by killing other divine children and apparently Sigrud has to plan a significant plan in foiling his rise to power.
I really enjoyed City of Miracles, which rounded off the series very nicely, and I look forward to seeing more novel-length stuff from this author - I also plan to nominate the series for next year's Best Series Hugo.