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“Wooden fish songs” were the laments sung by Chinese women left behind by husbands, sons, and brothers who, in the nineteenth century, sailed to America in quest of the good life – and found instead years of indentured servitude and racial discrimination. This novel focuses on Lue Gim Gong, a real-life Chinese pioneer, who seized the opportunity to go to America’s “Gold Mountain.” The story of his attempt to assimilate the new culture, his few successes and his frequent setbacks, is told not by himself but by the women who cared most about him: his mother in China, a New England spinster who loved him, and a friend and coworker who was the daughter of slaves. Ruthanne Lum McCunn brings her characters to life against a backdrop that ranges from China, with its deep roots in tradition, to the stern imperatives of a New England mill town and to 1870s Florida, where Lue developed the new species of frost-hardy oranges for which he is today remembered.
First published in 1995, this new edition includes an introduction by King-Kok Cheung, University of California, Los Angeles, and an afterword by the author.
For more information about the author go to http://www.mccunn.com/
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Ruthanne Lum McCunn is the author of the highly acclaimed novel Thousand Pieces of Gold, as well as a pictorial history, Chinese American Portraits: Personal Histories, 1828-1988. She was born in San Francisco's Chinatown and grew up in Hong Kong. She currently lives in San Francisco.For more information about the author go to http://www.mccunn.com/From Publishers Weekly:
McCunn's second novel (after Thousand Pieces of Gold) returns to a subject she treated in the nonfiction Chinese-American Portraits, as she again tells an affecting story of a lonely, dedicated life. This is a fictionalized biography (documented with well-researched details) of unsung immigrant horticulturist Lue Gim Gong, who died in 1925 after breeding superior Florida citruses. Lue's tale is recounted from the viewpoints of three 19th-century women: Sum Jui, his mother in Toishan, anxious for her son among America's "foreign ghosts"; Fanny, the 40-ish fundamentalist spinster (and laudanum addict) in North Adams, Mass., who gives the teenaged Lue a home and a Christian education while falling in love with him; and Sheba, daughter of black slaves, who works with Lue in the citrus groves. The common theme is the appalling inhumanity endured by women, and sometimes by men, in all three cultures under the stress of cultural and religious notions. McCunn records Chinese infanticide, the sale and hard labor of children, the paralyzing dread of seeing a "fox ghost"; relatives and rapacious landlords; New Englanders' Bible-toting fury and xenophobia against "pagan" Asians; Southern cruelty toward newly emancipated African Americans; and icy racial hostility against the Chinese. Her skillful balance of individual stories and social history makes a poignant statement about the waste of lives. The author's own lament emerges in her title, which refers to a genre of women's songs for the menfolk who sought their livelihoods in the "Gold Mountain" of America.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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