What really happened in Aotearoa during the 1860s onwards?
Well known author Trevor Agnew and his partner Jenny Sew Hoy Agnew – a direct descendant of Choie Sew Hoy – have crafted a culturally relevant biography that secondary students and adults alike will find informative. Sew Hoy’s biography is woven together with aspects of entrepreneurism, trade, racism, social aspects, political bias, and employment discrepancy in New Zealand.
This nonfiction work will contribute significantly to school library collections and inform students of lesser known Aotearoa history. Year 13 History students undertaking independent research will have a comprehensive resource at their fingertips.
Sidebars throughout the book offer quick access to social conditions. In 1870 where even though the miners were barely surviving the harsh conditions in the Lake District they were quoted by the Otago Witness paper as having “… plenty wood, plenty fire, plenty tucker”. The inclusion of maps, photos and cartoons further reveal the flavour of New Zealand’s social history and attitudes towards Chinese then. A 1910 NZ Truth cartoon depicts a Chinese King with the caption ‘Long live the Chow now’ – it was a very public, racist attack on Chinese industry and success in NZ.
Gold was a get rich quick but unreliable income. Chinese were not only challenged by conditions, but often by violent opposition. Chinese miners proved industrious in mining and diversified into other industries including tree fungus trade, market gardens, scrap metal trade and new gold extraction designs (the Sew Hoy dredge).
Choie Sew Hoy’s life discloses the energy and entrepreneurship required to survive in a foreign land. There is no doubt that, additionally, negotiating and helping to improve the conditions for Chinese workers’ also contributed to Sew Hoy’s status. These aspects and many more in Sew Hoy’s biography offer a fascinating read of Aotearoa history.
Title: Merchant, Miner, Mandarin: The life and times of the remarkable Choie Sew Hoy
Author: Jenny Sew Hoy Agnew and Trevor Agnew
Illustrator: Gavin Bishop (Cover)
Publisher: Canterbury University Press
Date of Publication: June 2020
Ages: Secondary students upwards
Do you have any advisory warnings for this book? No
Reviewer: Michele Ayres, Librarian, Motueka High School, Tasman
How are you recommending this book? Highly recommended
What’s the book’s opening sentence? It is late in the 19th century.
You can buy this book here