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Patriot Number One: American Dreams in Chinatown

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  631 ratings  ·  122 reviews
A deeply reported look at the Chinese immigrant community in the United States, casting a new light on what it means to seek the American dream

Nearly three years ago, journalist Lauren Hilgers received an unexpected call. Hello, Lauren! a man shouted in halting Mandarin. We might be seeing you in New York again soon! The voice belonged to Zhuang Liehong, a Chinese man who
Hardcover, 325 pages
Published March 20th 2018 by Crown Publishing Group (NY)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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Elyse  Walters
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Update from this morning:

There is nothing boring about Lauren Hilger’s writing - It’s raw- personal - and page turning eye-opening. I’m walking away with a better understanding - of ‘why’ citizens of China who do not speak a word of English - don’t have any family support in the United States waiting them - have little education under their belt - limited skills -still might do anything to escape- fight for Asylum in a complete foreign country where the struggles are mountains bigger than antici
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader by: Fran
5 bold stars to Patriot Number One, a nonfiction masterpiece! 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

Lauren Hilgers is an American journalist who met a man named Zhuang while reporting on site in his village in China. Zhuang, a free-thinker, had been arrested for staging protests and was labeled a dissident. He called Lauren one day to say he would be traveling to America and had plans to abandon his tour group, along with his wife, and live in Chinatown in Flushing, New York.

I found the build-up of what would happen with
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Chinatown, in Flushing, Queens, has one of the largest Chinese populations outside Asia. Having lived in Flushing in the 1980's, I traveled on the #7 subway line and shopped on Main Street. Ethnically, the population was mostly of European descent. I was curious about the restructuring and changing ethnicity of my old haunts. "Patriot Number One" is a dual story, a story of a Chinese immigrant family and a recounting of the dwindling size of Wukan Village, Lufeng local government, in Guangdong P ...more
**UPDATE: After some thought, I decided to up the rating to 5 stars instead of 4.5, as this book had such a profound impact on me, I'm still thinking about it even now. Also added to favorites folder**

With the ongoing immigration debate in the U.S. as of late, this book that takes a deep dive into the Chinese immigrant community through the stories of several immigrants pursuing their version of the American dream is a timely one that I feel everyone should read. Written by American journalist L
4.5 Stars

“And I've been searching for something
Taken out of my soul
Something I would never lose
Something somebody stole

“I don't know why I go walking at night
But now I'm tired and I don't want to walk anymore
I hope it doesn't take the rest of my life
Until I find what it is that I've been looking for”

--River of Dreams - Billy Joel, Songwriters, Billy Joel

”And during the Wukan protests in 2011, according to an interview with the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, Zhuang had learned an importa
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am so sorry this will be my last Blogging for Books choice as they are discontinuing. I have loved getting print books, which are so much easier on my eyes. I thank them for the 27 books I reviewed over these last years.

Journalist Lauren Hilgers was covering a story of Chinese villagers protesting the land-grab by local authorities and demanding democratic rights when she met Zhuang Lienog, son of a fisherman and tea shop owner. When the corrupt local government decided to crack down on protes
Jill Dobbe
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The author spends time in China and while there, befriends a man, Zhuang, who is involved in the politics of Wukan, his hometown, and is labeled as a dissident. He is jailed and once released, finds his way to the U.S. where he hopes to be successful. The account of his life, and that of his wife's, take place in Wukan, China, Flushing, NY, and NYC, as they both take on endless jobs and move to countless apartments, in order to make a good life for their son and themselves.

There is a lot going o
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via their First To Read program, and an honest review was requested. "Patriot Number One" tells the story of Chinese democracy and anti-corruption activist Zhuang Liehong and his wife, Little Yan. For most of the book, the setting switches back and forth between Zhuang's life and activism in China and his emigration to Flushing, Queens and his struggle for legal status and to adapt and thrive in the United States. It is a fascinating story, thoug ...more
Kasa Cotugno
Although this reads novelistically, it is the true account of a young family from China who manage to forge a new life chasing the elusive American dream. Timely and relevant, it tells how Zhuang feels he must relocate after his experiences as a dissident, and courageously moves with his wife, Little Yen, without much money, a working ability in English, a support system, or even a realistic knowledge of how life would play out in Queens where he has his heart set on thriving. Chapters are clear ...more
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I won this in a first reads giveaway
This is a fantastic illustration of the modern immigrant experience. The author does a wonderful job of character development and showing how hard it is to start over in a new country where you don't know anyone and have to adjust to a whole new set of customs and social mores.
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This non-fiction book follows a Chinese dissent as he seeks asylum in the US for himself and his family. It highlights the struggles and disillusionment and also exposes a system of bureaucratic mazes and delays and how this community has learned to game the system. The subject of this book is not a major player in resistance in China, yet the government continues to pursue his friends and family and fellow villagers in his absence.
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
I don’t usually read non fiction, but after hearing the author speak at a book event, I was intrigued. This story of Chinese immigrants coming to Flushing, fleeing political persecution on China, is relevant to today’s immigration debate. It was an interesting read, very detailed, but illuminating as to what challenges are presented when trying to understand how to make it in this country.
May 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting account of trying to fight for your beliefs both in China and in the U.S.. Struggles of Chinese immigrants are also described. The content is interesting but I didn't get a sense of feeling about the characters (subjects?) of this story. ...more
Mar 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Patriot Number One opens it's readers to the world of Flushings and the people living in its neighborhood who go unnoticed in our society trying to live out the American Dream or more so their version of the American Dream. The American Dream often times is elusive and the stories shared throughout the book seems unattainable and out of reach. With hard work, perseverance, strong will and determination the men and women make of their American Dream by working long hours in jobs they don't necess ...more
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an enlightening look at the ordeal of immigrants in the United States, especially those from China. The focus is primarily on Zhuang and his wife, Little Han, and their sometimes rocky road to find a place for themselves while still trying to stay in touch with the protest movement that led them to flee their home. Hilgers also sheds an important light on the oppressive regime and lack of real freedom for the people of China, particularly those from the more rural areas of the country. I ...more
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Hilgers tells the true story of a Chinese man, Zhuang Liehong, who escapes to NYC after he helps lead the people of his village, Wukan, in revolt of the government. Leihong and his wife, Little Yan, discover how difficult it is to make it as undocumented, working class immigrants in America. Hilgers follows their daily lives including applying for asylum, and also tells their backstories and the story of Wukan. Powerful, timely and highly readable.
Meag McKeron
Mar 19, 2018 rated it liked it
I found the topic of Patriot Number One to be interesting, since I knew very little about political unrest in China or the struggles of Chinese immigrants in America. Through the story of Zhuang and Little Yan, along with some of their friends and acquaintances in America, readers get a taste of the harsh realities of immigrants struggling to become legal US residents, find work and affordable housing, and learn English. Hilgers does a good job of showing just how different and at times jarring ...more
In 2011, journalist Lauren Hilgers reported from a small village located on the southern coast of China. There, villagers had revolted against corrupt local government when it was discovered their farmland was being sold out from under them to real estate developers. The unlikely leader of the rebellion was a fisherman's son named Zhuang Liehong whose activism soon drew the ire of police and government officials. Zhuang knew he needed to escape while he could, before his passport was blacklisted ...more
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don't know about you, but I don't think that I could master reading Chinese characters or even do a credible communication in even one of the many dialects. The reverse of this is true for each of the many Chinese immigrants in New York and elsewhere in the English speaking world.
This book gives the rest of us a view into Wukan village life and indignities, the government reaction to low level rebellion, the need and process of political asylum seeking, the incredible monetary and emotional c
Dong Han
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite non-fiction reads. This story of a Chinese family who seeks asylum in the United States, while highly personalized and deeply characterized, touches on universal themes of freedom, the meaning of family, immigrant striving, and the American dream. Reading this book humanized the bits and pieces you or I would read in the news about Chinese politics and shines a light on the story of Wukan village which deserves its proper telling in history. Highly highly recommend!
Rhonda Lomazow
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Lauren Hilgers has written a fascinating engrossing look at immigrants the desire for the American experience family traditions .Drew me in from the first pages reads like a novel very timely book for today’s political climate.Highly recommend.Thanks @crownpublishing@netgalley for advanced readers copy.
Apr 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Patriot Number One: American Dreams in Chinatown is the true story of Zhuang Liehong, a Chinese immigrant, and activist. The story begins in Wukan, a small fishing village in Guangdong Province in China. Zhuang, incensed by the corruption in his town, spearheads a movement that he hopes will bring change. Instead, it becomes obvious that he is a marked man. He defects to the United States along with his wife, Little Yan, leaving their infant son with relatives.

The saga winds through the frustrat
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written with a lot of attention to detail and obvious care for the subjects, in some ways reminding me of certain Dave Eggers books, say Zeitoun.
This is simply the story of a man, a common man in China, who got fed up at one point with what he saw as unfair corrupt government officials in his small village. He protests, and what could have been one single hot-headed protest becomes his life’s work.
He flees, ends up a refugee in New York, but never moves on or stops caring about home.
This could b
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
In Patriot Number One Lauren Hilgers has created a warts and all story of Zhuang, a semi-literate Chinese dissident, who, with his pretty young wife Little Yan, fights all odds to make a life for his family in the USA. To her credit, Hilgers, who met Zhuang when she spent six years in Shanghai as a journalist and afterwards supported him in the United States, has told Zhuang's story of dogged determination without sentimentality but with enough details to elicit sympathy.

I was sad to leave the t
Jul 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: r-pfr
Patriot Number One is Zhuang Liehong, a Chinese activist who has sought asylum and made the United States his home. Any immigrant story has two parts - the life they create in their adopted home and the life they leave behind. Going back and forth in time and place, the book by Lauren Hilgers captures both. On both sides of the story, the book depicts a struggle. One is the activism and fight against corruption. The other is the attempt to navigate the US immigration and justice system in a lega ...more
Mac Daly
In the village of Wukan, China, Zhuang Liehong leads a protest against the seizing of land by the government and is known as Patriot Number One. Fearing retribution, he and his wife, Little Yan flee to New York and seek asylum. While in New York, Zhuang grapples with the intricacies of getting his green card, finding work, bringing his son to NY and continuing his support of Wukan. Nobody makes it easy for him and Little Yan. It's a fascinating and often frustrating story. It's sometimes hard to ...more
Feb 28, 2019 rated it liked it
I read this for my adult lit class. It was interesting to hear about several Chinese immigrants-why they left China, how they felt being here in America and some of the struggles to make it in an unfamiliar place where the common tongue is not yours.
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
The author spent six years in China, and had been back in America two years when a contact from her expatriate time phoned her suddenly, saying he would see her soon in New York. This was totally unexpected, although she knew that Zhuang Liehong and his wife, Little Yan, were hoping to escape from China and seek political asylum in the United States. Zhuang was a political activist, seeking to reform the local system in Wukan, the village where he lived. Corruption was rife, and he wanted justic ...more
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Patriot Number One is the story of a Chinese man named Zhuang Liehong who ends up in New York after leaving his own Chinese village during political upheaval. The author captures the struggles and trials of living as an undocumented immigrant in America during this time and what Liehong and his wife must do in order to survive. The author writes with much detail, care, and in an incredibly engaging manner. I would highly recommend this book!
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Being an chinese immigrant, I was immediately drawn
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Lauren Hilgers lived in Shanghai, China for six years, writing about topics ranging from tomb raiders in rural Henan Province to political scandals in Beijing. Her articles have appeared in Harper's, Wired, Businessweek, The New Yorker, and The New York Times Magazine. She lives in New York with her husband and their daughter.

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