Ruthanne Lum McCunn

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Ruthanne Lum McCunn (Chinese :林露德; pinyin :Lín Lùdé) (née Drysdale; [1] born February 21, 1946 [2] ) is an American novelist and editor of Chinese and Scottish descent. [3]

Traditional Chinese characters Traditional Chinese characters

Traditional Chinese characters are Chinese characters in any character set that does not contain newly created characters or character substitutions performed after 1946. They are most commonly the characters in the standardized character sets of Taiwan, of Hong Kong and Macau. The modern shapes of traditional Chinese characters first appeared with the emergence of the clerical script during the Han dynasty and have been more or less stable since the 5th century.

Pinyin Chinese romanization scheme for Mandarin

Hanyu Pinyin, often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan. It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin Chinese, which is normally written using Chinese characters. The system includes four diacritics denoting tones. Pinyin without tone marks is used to spell Chinese names and words in languages written with the Latin alphabet and also in certain computer input methods to enter Chinese characters.


Early life

Ruthanne Lum McCunn was born as Roxey Drysdale on February 21, 1946 in Chinatown, San Francisco and raised in Hong Kong. [4] Her father was a Scottish American merchant seaman from Idaho, and her mother was from Hong Kong. Her parents met in the late 1930s when her mother came to San Francisco with a cousin to visit the World's Fair, where she met Ruthanne's father, fell in love with him and got married. Interracial marriage was illegal in California at the time so they drove to Washington, where a minister, who was a friend of her father's family, married them. For the duration of World War II, they lived in San Francisco's Chinatown.

Chinatown, San Francisco Neighborhood in San Francisco, California, United States

The Chinatown centered on Grant Avenue and Stockton Street in San Francisco, California, is the oldest Chinatown in North America and the largest Chinese enclave outside Asia. It is also the oldest and largest of the four notable Chinatowns within the City. Since its establishment in 1848, it has been highly important and influential in the history and culture of ethnic Chinese immigrants in North America. Chinatown is an enclave that continues to retain its own customs, languages, places of worship, social clubs, and identity. There are two hospitals, several parks and squares, numerous churches, a post office, and other infrastructure. Recent immigrants, many of whom are elderly, opt to live in Chinatown because of the availability of affordable housing and their familiarity with the culture. San Francisco's Chinatown is also renowned as a major tourist attraction, drawing more visitors annually than the Golden Gate Bridge.

Hong Kong Chinese special administrative region

Hong Kong, officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (HKSAR), is a special administrative region on the eastern side of the Pearl River estuary in southern China. With over 7.4 million people of various nationalities in a 1,104-square-kilometre (426 sq mi) territory, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated places in the world.

Washington (state) state of the United States of America

Washington, officially the State of Washington, is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. Named for George Washington, the first U.S. president, the state was made out of the western part of the Washington Territory, which was ceded by the British Empire in 1846, in accordance with the Oregon Treaty in the settlement of the Oregon boundary dispute. The state, which is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, Oregon to the south, Idaho to the east, and the Canadian province of British Columbia to the north, was admitted to the Union as the 42nd state in 1889. Olympia is the state capital; the state's largest city is Seattle. Washington is often referred to as Washington State to distinguish it from the nation's capital, Washington, D.C..

In 1947, her mother returned to Hong Kong with Ruthanne and her sister, where they lived in Sai Ying Pun. McCunn's first language was Cantonese, and she grew up surrounded by her mother's extended family. When she was six years old, her father returned from sea, and concerned that she could not speak English, placed her in a British school. Her father died in America while she was in Form Five at the King George V School. [5]

Sai Ying Pun Area of Western District, Hong Kong

Sai Ying Pun is an area in Western District, on Hong Kong Island, in Hong Kong. It is administratively part of the Central and Western District.

Cantonese variety of Yue Chinese spoken in Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Macau

Cantonese is a variety of Chinese originating from the city of Guangzhou and its surrounding area in Southeastern China. It is the traditional prestige variety of the Yue Chinese dialect group, which has about 68 million native speakers. While the term Cantonese specifically refers to the prestige variety, it is often used to refer to the entire Yue subgroup of Chinese, including related but largely mutually unintelligible languages and dialects such as Taishanese.

King George V School (Hong Kong) International school in Hong Kong S.A.R

King George V School is a co-educational international secondary independent school of the English Schools Foundation (ESF), located in Ho Man Tin, Hong Kong. The school has 1740 students and is one of the oldest schools in Hong Kong. Students take IGCSEs/GCSEs followed by the International Baccalaureate Diploma or the British BTEC programme. There is a Learning Support Centre (LSC) for students with learning difficulties. The campus has an area of 10.2 acres. The school is one of three ESF secondary schools in Kowloon and the New Territories, the others being Sha Tin College and Renaissance College.

At age sixteen, McCunn left for America in 1962, after passing her O Levels. She first arrived in Boise, Idaho, where her sister had already settled with their father's relatives. She then left for Walnut Creek, California, where she lived with a friend of her mother's. For two years, she attended Diablo Valley Junior College, and worked odd jobs from janitor to short-order cook. She then transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, and married Don McCunn at the end of her junior year. They moved to Austin, Texas, where she completed her undergraduate degree in English at the University of Texas at Austin in 1968. [6] McCunn earned her teaching credentials from the University of California, San Francisco when they returned to San Francisco the following year.

Boise, Idaho State capital city in Idaho, United States

Boise is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Idaho, and is the county seat of Ada County. Located on the Boise River in southwestern Idaho, it is 41 miles (66 km) east of the Oregon border, and 110 miles (177 km) north of the Nevada border. The downtown area's elevation is 2,704 feet (824 m) above sea level. Its estimated population in 2018 was 228,790.

Walnut Creek, California City in California, United States

Walnut Creek is a city in Contra Costa County, California, United States, located in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, about 16 miles (26 km) east of the city of Oakland. With a total estimated population of 69,122, Walnut Creek serves as a hub for its neighboring cities because of its location at the junction of the highways from Sacramento and San Jose (I-680) and San Francisco/Oakland (SR-24) and its accessibility by BART. Its active downtown neighborhood features hundred-year-old buildings and extensive high-end retail establishments, restaurants and entertainment venues.

Diablo Valley College community college in United States of America

Diablo Valley College (DVC) is a community college with campuses in Pleasant Hill and San Ramon in Contra Costa County, California.


McCunn first worked as a librarian and then as a teacher in a Santa Barbara elementary school before she and her husband settled permanently in San Francisco in 1974, where she was an English and bilingual teacher. She continued to teach until 1978, when she decided to write full-time.

She has taught a few terms of creative writing and Asian American literature at the University of San Francisco, Cornell University, and University of California, Santa Cruz. [7]

The University of San Francisco (USF) is a Jesuit university in San Francisco, California. The school's main campus is located on a 55-acre (22 ha) setting between the Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park. The main campus is nicknamed "The Hilltop", and part of the main campus is located on Lone Mountain, one of San Francisco's major geographical features. Its close historical ties with the City and County of San Francisco are reflected in the University's traditional motto, Pro Urbe et Universitate.

Cornell University Private Ivy League research university in Upstate New York

Cornell University is a private and statutory Ivy League research university in Ithaca, New York. Founded in 1865 by Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White, the university was intended to teach and make contributions in all fields of knowledge—from the classics to the sciences, and from the theoretical to the applied. These ideals, unconventional for the time, are captured in Cornell's founding principle, a popular 1868 Ezra Cornell quotation: "I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study."

University of California, Santa Cruz public University of California campus in Santa Cruz

The University of California, Santa Cruz is a public research university in Santa Cruz, California. It is one of 10 campuses in the University of California system. Located 75 miles (120 km) south of San Francisco at the edge of the coastal community of Santa Cruz, the campus lies on 2,001 acres (810 ha) of rolling, forested hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Monterey Bay.

Her work has appeared in Zyzzyva. [8] In 1991, her second novel, Thousand Pieces of Gold, was adapted into a film of the same name. McCunn was reportedly unhappy with the adaptation.

<i>Thousand Pieces of Gold</i> (film) 1991 film by Nancy Kelly

Thousand Pieces of Gold is a 1991 film starring Rosalind Chao, Chris Cooper, Dennis Dun and Michael Paul Chan, and is directed by Nancy Kelly. The film is based on a novel of the same name.

She was co-editor with Judy Yung and Russell C. Leong on the Chinese American historian Him Mark Lai's autobiography. It was published by the UCLA Asian American Center Press in 2011. [9]

Personal life

McCunn lives in San Francisco, California with her husband, Don, and their two cats. [10] [11]


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  1. "Asian and Pacific Islander Americans". Retrieved January 11, 2015.
  2. "Author Profile: Ruthanne Lum McCunn in Notable Asian Americans". Retrieved January 11, 2015.
  3. "Biography of Ruthanne Lum McCunn". Retrieved September 21, 2012.
  4. sibookdragon (1995-01-01). "Author Profile: Ruthanne Lum McCunn [in Notable Asian Americans]". BookDragon. Retrieved 2019-07-05.
  5. "Author Ruthanne Lum McCunn on Hong Kong hero of American civil war". South China Morning Post. 2015-06-13. Retrieved 2019-07-05.
  6. "Asian and Pacific Islander Americans". Retrieved January 11, 2015.
  7. "Asian and Pacific Islander Americans". Retrieved January 11, 2015.
  8. "". Google Books. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
  9. "Him Mark Lai: Autobiography of a Chinese American Historian". Chinese Historical Society of America. 2011-12-01. Retrieved 2019-07-05.
  10. "Description: Wooden Fish Songs". University of Washington Press. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
  11. "Ruthanne Lum McCunn, author". Retrieved 2019-06-25.