Daiyu never wanted to be like the tragic heroine for whom she was named, revered for her beauty and cursed with heartbreak. But when she is kidnapped and smuggled across an ocean from China to America, Daiyu must relinquish the home and future she imagined for herself. Over the years that follow, she is forced to keep reinventing herself to survive. From a calligraphy school, to a San Francisco brothel, to a shop tucked into the Idaho mountains, we follow Daiyu on a desperate quest to outrun the tragedy that chases her. As anti-Chinese sentiment sweeps across the country in a wave of unimaginable violence, Daiyu must draw on each of the selves she has been—including the ones she most wants to leave behind—in order to finally claim her own name and story.
At once a literary tour de force and a groundbreaking work of historical fiction, Four Treasures of the Sky announces Jenny Tinghui Zhang as an indelible new voice. Steeped in untold history and Chinese folklore, this novel is a spellbinding feat.
“Engrossing . . . Epic . . . Zhang’s descriptive prose is an arresting combination of earthy and lyric . . . The resonance and immediacy of these barbarous 19th-century events are testament to Zhang’s storytelling powers, and should stand as a warning to all of us.”—Jennifer Egan, The New York Times Book Review
"Zhang’s transporting story of perseverance in the face of shocking injustice resonates across cultures, and also feels sadly relevant to today’s world."—The Washington Post
“A surreal and sprawling story . . . Historical fiction that lays bare the human tragedy behind the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act.”—Ayesha Rascoe, NPR Morning Edition
“The prides and prejudices of the Old West blaze to life in Zhang’s propulsive, fable-like novel . . . Zhang skillfully embellishes her novel with Chinese characters, suggesting that language is our most potent weapon against oppression.”—Oprah Daily
“Jenny Tinghui Zhang has given us characters to love and root for, and she has pinned to the page the daily devastations that they have faced . . . But what Zhang has also given us is the power of reclamation, of holding the brush in your own hand and telling your own story.”—Triangle House
“Radiant . . . A treasure of a debut . . . [Zhang’s] first novel reveals storytelling skills both vast and specific, bringing shadowy history to light while also displaying a remarkable talent for sensory detail.”—BookPage
“Jenny Tinghui Zhang uses her considerable talents to illuminate the shocking injustices the Chinese in this country suffered in the 1800s, and in doing so, makes us stop and consider how much of that cruelty and injustice survive to this day. Four Treasures of the Sky is an engulfing, bighearted, and heartbreaking novel.”—Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House
“An astonishing novel propelled by private and public histories, rich with reflections on self-making, moral calling, great love, and profound injustice. Jenny Tinghui Zhang's writing enthralled me—it is as honed as a needle and as gorgeous as calligraphy.”—Megha Majumdar, author of A Burning
“An exhilarating rush of character, history, and storytelling. This novel of the American West illuminates the horrific realities of the Chinese Exclusion act of the 1880s. With unforgettable characters, resiliency, and poetic lyricism, Jenny Tinghui Zhang takes her readers on an unforgettable adventure. This carefully researched novel dazzles.”—Kali Fajardo-Anstine, author of Sabrina & Corina
“Brilliant and devastating, Four Treasures of the Sky tells the story of Daiyu, who is brought to America against her will and forced to hide who she is even as she grows into her true self. Weaving together myth and history, Zhang’s work is both timeless and utterly necessary right now.”—Anna North, author of Outlawed
“In a sweeping adventure that spans China and the American West, Jenny Tinghui Zhang has crafted a thoughtful story of identity, love, and belonging.”—C Pam Zhang, author of How Much of These Hills Is Gold
“A revelation and a haunting, Four Treasures of the Sky is an instant and necessary classic, easily among the best novels of this decade. Jenny Tinghui Zhang is a sorcerer of words, weaving adventure, a fully realized history, and a story that lingers long after its final images. A true wonder.”—T Kira Madden, author of Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls
“Jenny Tinghui Zhang captures the adventure, the isolation, the violence, and the glittering hope of the American West. The author's fine attention to historical and human detail has allowed her to bring alive a heroine for the ages, an indomitable teenage girl whose relentless spirit and self-reinvention carries this story. Daiyu is sure to take her place in the canon of great Western heroines next to True Grit's Mattie Ross.”—Juliet Grames, author of The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna
“To say Four Treasures of the Sky is unflinching doesn’t do justice to the miraculous way in which Jenny Tinghui Zhang paints a neglected chapter in American history with sharp and devastating brushstrokes. This book is haunting, luscious, and precise—it’s historical fiction as we most want and need it to be.”—Julia Fine, author of The Upstairs House and What Should Be Wild
"Zhang’s debut novel imaginatively illuminates an often overlooked aspect of American history that resonates powerfully today, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and concurrent anti-Asian violence . . . Zhang’s blend of history and magical realism will appeal to fans of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Water Dancer as well as Amy Tan's The Valley of Amazement.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Extraordinary . . . Those who want to learn about a little-known incident in Chinese-American history will be enlightened by this moving debut.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Fierce and moving . . . Zhang delves into the history of violence and prejudice against Chinese people in the U.S. with her debut, a lyrical and sweeping Bildungsroman . . . The author skillfully delineates the many characters and offers fascinating details on Chinese calligraphy and literature, along with an unsparing view of white supremacy.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Reviews from Goodreads
When I am kidnapped, it does not happen in an alleyway. It does not happen in the middle of the night. It does not happen when I am alone.
When I am kidnapped, I am thirteen and standing in the middle of the Zhifu fish market...