cover image I Am an American: The Wong Kim Ark Story

I Am an American: The Wong Kim Ark Story

Martha Brockenbrough, with Grace Lin, illus. by Julia Kuo. Little, Brown, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-316-42692-3

In simple, spare prose, Brockenbrough and Lin trace the early life of Wong Kim Ark—born in San Francisco in 1873 to parents who emigrated from China—whose Supreme Court case would clarify the definition of U.S. birthright citizenship in 1898. Employing the refrain “I am an American,” the narrative effectively emphasizes how racism can impact laws’ interpretation and implementation. After Kim Ark is imprisoned for several months when his American citizenship is called into question, his “fate depended on whom the justices believed. And it wasn’t only his future at stake.” Kuo’s fine-lined digital art, gracefully employing reds, blues, and browns, presents an immersive backdrop to this solid historical primer, which also resonates in the present day. Back matter features more context about the story as well as a timeline; end papers display an 1885 segregated map of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Ages 4–8. (Nov.)