Just finished my review of Libba Bray's The Diviners for the December column (loved it!) and was struck again by the passage below where Bray slips in a bit about one of the less savory aspects of American history:
"What's going on there?" Evie asked. A light shone in the window of a shop where a line of men had gathered.
"Sending letters home to their wives, most likely."
"Their wives don't live here with them?"
"The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882." Uncle Will stared at her, waiting for a response. "What do they teach in schools these days? We're going to have a nation of creationists with no grasp of history."
"Then I suppose it's lucky you're tutoring me."
"Yes. Well," Will said uncertainly before settling into lecturing mode. "The Chinese Exclusion Act was a law designed to keep more Chinese from coming here once they'd finished building our railroads. They couldn't bring their families over. They weren't protected by our laws. They were on their own."
"Doesn't sound terribly American."
"On the contrary, it's very American." Uncle Will said bitterly.
The book is first and foremost a scary adventure but the history and atmosphere of 1920s New York City is intense. Bray tells it like it was and her attention to details like this small one is part of what makes the book so impressive.