An Ocean Apart: The Gold Mountain Diary of Chin Mei-ling


218 pages
ISBN 0-7791-1353-5
DDC jC813'.54





Reviewed by Martha Lamon

Martha Lamon is a freelance writer and researcher based in Huntsville,


The Dear Canada books are series of fictional diaries. Each diary is
written from the point of view of a girl living during an important time
in Canadian history. An Ocean Apart is the 1922–23 diary of Mei-ling,
an Asian immigrant who lives with her father, Baba, in a room in
Vancouver’s Chinatown. The two are trying to earn enough money to pay
the fare and the Head Tax required to bring Mei-ling’s mother and baby
brother to Canada from China. Mei-ling was given the diary by her
teacher. She writes in it about her life in Chinatown, her experiences
at school (where she is subjected to prejudice and racist taunts), and
about Miss MacDonald, the white lady from the local church who befriends
and helps her.

The diary is beautifully written and communicates well Mei-ling’s
circumstances and the challenges she faces. Young readers have an
intriguing opportunity to learn about everything from the cultural
practices and beliefs of Chinese immigrants at that time to the passing
of the Exclusion Act.

The book, which resembles a diary, is nicely bound in hard cover with
high-quality paper and a ribbon bookmark. In addition to the diary
entries, there are historical notes, a glossary of Chinese words and
names, a map, and pictures of people and artifacts that date from the
period. Highly recommended.


Chan, Gillian., “An Ocean Apart: The Gold Mountain Diary of Chin Mei-ling,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 21, 2024,