Patriot Number One: American Dreams in Chinatown is the true story of Zhuang Liehong, a Chinese immigrant, and activist. The story begins in Wukan, a small fishing village in Guangdong Province in China. Zhuang, incensed by the corruption in his town, spearheads a movement that he hopes will bring change. Instead, it becomes obvious that he is a marked man. He defects to the United States along with his wife, Little Yan, leaving their infant son with relatives.
The saga winds through the frustrating and often confusing bureaucracy of the asylum process and centers on the Chinese-American community in Flushing, NY. Patriot Number One highlights the immense challenges that immigrants face when they come to the United States, along with the sacrifices, suffering, and tenacity that are necessary parts of the process.
Patriot Number One really reminded me how blessed I am to live in a free country. In China, social media accounts are tracked and censored. Zhuang’s father was imprisoned on trumped up charges and his mother and disabled older brother were regularly visited by security forces. People who escape China to Thailand worry that the local police will send them back to China. China’s human rights violations are widely known, but I still appreciate the reminder this book gave me.
I found the book hard to follow, however. The big picture was clear, but I often got lost in seemingly disjointed details. I admit I’m a detail-oriented person and I might pay more attention to small details that might not be important to the story, but there were numerous instances where I just went “what?” One such instance is where Zhuang tells Tang (another activist) that he “…had so many Facebook followers….but my Facebook account has been closed down.” The very next page it says “…more than two thousand people were following Xhuang on Facebook. People were supporting him in the comments, clicking “like” and leaving behind emojis of crying faces.”
I also wish that the book had pictures in it of the people that are in it. I’m a visual person and it really helps to see a face to go with a name. I finally went online and found some articles and that helped me envision who the author was talking about for at least Zhuang and Little Yan.
Patriot Number One was a disappointment for me, but it is still a valid picture of Chinese immigrants and the issues they face both in China and in the US.
*I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.