Back in April, Santa Clara author Tim Myers released a new picture book, “Yao Bai and the Egg Pirates,” published by West Margin Press. The book, set during the Gold Rush, tells the story of Yao Bai, a boy from China who lives with his family in a fishing camp in the upper San Francisco Bay. One day, Yao, his father and his uncle sail to the Farallon Islands to gather seabird eggs with the intention to sell them to gold miners. While they are sailing home, Yao must outsmart egg-looting pirates.
“One of the things I love about being a writer is I get to pay attention all the time to things,” Myers said. “I had no plans for a book the day my family and I took a boat ride out to the Farallon Islands, which is 26 miles west of San Francisco. On that trip, we learned about the egg wars during the Gold Rush and how there were so many miners in the gold fields they had trouble feeding them all. So companies, such as the Pacific Egg Company, began gathering seabird eggs on the Farallon Islands and selling them to the prospectors all the way up in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
“On that trip to the islands, we also saw a huge number of whales including breaching humpbacks- these whales jump out of the water,” Myers continued. “We also visited China Camp, which is a state park on the North San Francisco Bay, which used to be a shrimp fishing village for the Chinese who came to America during the Gold Rush. I was inspired to think that a boy and his family might go out to the islands for eggs.”
What followed for Myers was months of reflection and research on the picture book. After drafting the picture book manuscript, Myers encountered more months of revision and additional research during the editing process and collaboration with the book illustrator, Bonnie Pang.
Myers has three goals in mind for this book.
“The first is I want people to get a better sense of the importance of what the Chinese and Chinese Americans have done for the country,” Myers said, pointing to the Chinese people’s contribution to building the transcontinental railroad as one example. “The second is for people to have a better sense of how unjust so many Americans were to the Chinese and Chinese Americans, even when they were doing so much good for America. The Chinese are the only group in the history of America to be excluded by name in a national law — that is the Chinese Exclusion Act. And finally, I want people to hopefully thrill to a story that’s full of surprise and wonder.”