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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Freedom for Me: A Chinese Yankee is an historical fiction novel written by Stacie Haas. The character of Thomas Beck, the young Chinese American who joins the Fourteenth Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry with his brother, Robert, is based on the true-life story of Joseph Pierce. Like Pierce, Beck is rescued from a life of involuntary servitude by his uncle, who secretes his young nephew in a crate placed on board a ship. The ship’s captain, Amos Beck, adopts the child as his own, and brings him home to Connecticut where the Becks have a farm. Haas details the struggles a Chinese American would have being accepted by his peers in the Infantry, starting with the difficulties his own adopted brother has in acknowledging their family relationship. In her author’s note, Haas indicates those aspects of Thomas Beck’s story which differ from the real life history of Joseph Pierce. She also shares details of Pierce’s life after his Civil War service.
Freedom for Me: A Chinese Yankee is a meticulously researched and beautifully presented military fiction novel which recreates the life and experiences of a Chinese Yankee volunteer during the Civil War. Her battle scenes are stark and moving, and the prejudicial attitudes Beck is subjected to ring true, sadly enough, even in today’s world. Reading Freedom for Me was a fascinating and illuminating experience for me as each skirmish became real and the bravery of those who endured is revealed. I was especially interested in seeing how Thomas interacted with the soldiers he was attached to, particularly Henry, whose initial viciousness and physical attacks were alarming. The young men, all from very different walks of life, formed a team that was memorable. What was perhaps most moving of all was Beck’s conviction that freeing the slaves was worth sacrificing his own life for; that his own freedom was intricately tied up in the civil rights of others. Freedom for Me: A Chinese Yankee is beautifully written and it’s most highly recommended.