By Herald Staff
Freedom for Me: A Chinese Yankee, a new novel from debut author Stacie Haas and 5050 Press, sheds light on the fight for freedom during the American Civil War.
The novel, which was inspired by a true story, follows the path of a young Chinese boy who was saved from the coolie trade, a form of indentured servitude, and comes of age during the turmoil over the issue of slavery leading up to the Civil War. Like any American boy, he wants to fight for his state of Connecticut, but his brother claims he can’t enlist because “there’s no such thing as a Chinese Yankee.”
Despite his age and his Chinese heritage, Thomas finds a way to enlist and quickly discovers that he is destined to fight battles beyond those with the Confederate Army. Comrades in his regiment assume he is a slave because of his strange appearance and ancient Chinese hairstyle. Almost immediately after joining his regiment, Thomas experiences the pain and difficulty of prejudice.
When he meets a runaway slave named Sam, Thomas realizes that he has been given a great opportunity to fight for freedom—for the slaves who deserve complete emancipation and perhaps for people like him who are put in the position of having to prove their Americanness.
Haas said, “Sam helps Thomas understand that, while he is not a slave and could never truly understand what it’s like to be one, that he is in a unique position to understand their plight. Sam teaches Thomas that nothing matters beyond freedom; that it has to come before everything else.”
By the end of the novel, both Sam and Thomas find different degrees of the freedom that they are seeking.
“I wrote this book because I wanted young people to understand that Chinese soldiers fought in the Civil War,” said Haas. “It’s important for me, as someone with Chinese heritage, to inform and educate teens of that fact. I also think it’s a timely novel because the fight for freedom takes many forms and continues to this day.”