Thousand Pieces of Gold

Last updated
Thousand Pieces of Gold
Author Ruthanne Lum McCunn
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Genre historical novel
Publication date
1981
ISBN 080708381X

Thousand Pieces of Gold is a 1981 historical novel by Ruthanne Lum McCunn and based on the life of Polly Bemis, a 19th-century Chinese immigrant woman in the American Old West. In 1991, the novel was adapted into a film of the same name.

Ruthanne Lum McCunn is an American novelist and editor of Chinese and Scottish descent.

Polly Bemis Chinese American pioneer

Polly Bemis was a Chinese American pioneer who lived in Idaho in the late 19th and early 20th century. Her story became a biographical novel, and was the subject of the 1991 film A Thousand Pieces of Gold.

The Han Chinese, Hanzu, Han people, are an East Asian ethnic group and nation native to China. They constitute the world's largest ethnic group, making up about 18% of the global population. The estimated 1.3 billion Han Chinese people are mostly concentrated in mainland China. In Taiwan they make about 95% of the population. Han Chinese people also make up around 75% of the total population of Singapore.

Contents

Plot

Lalu is the daughter of a Chinese farmer. When her father loses everything, Lalu finds herself thrust into debt slavery. Her misfortunes eventually take her to the Pacific Northwest. [1] [2]

Pacific Northwest Region that includes parts of Canada and the United States

The Pacific Northwest (PNW), sometimes referred to as Cascadia, is a geographic region in western North America bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the west and (loosely) by the Cascade Mountain Range on the east. Though no official boundary exists, the most common conception includes the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC) and the U.S. states of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Broader conceptions reach north into Southeast Alaska and Yukon, south into northern California, and east to the Continental Divide to include Western Montana and parts of Wyoming. Narrower conceptions may be limited to the coastal areas west of the Cascade and Coast mountains. The variety of definitions can be attributed to partially overlapping commonalities of the region's history, culture, geography, society, and other factors.

Background

McCunn first came across Lalu Nathoy's story when she was researching the lives of Chinese in Idaho for an earlier nonfiction book called An Illustrated History of the Chinese in America: [3]

I came across her story in a book called Idaho Chinese Lore by Sister Alfreda Elsensohn— it included just a few pages about her. But I immediately knew that I wanted to find out more about her and write an entire book about her because she brought out so many things about American history that we don't actually know about, generally, in this country. And also because, to me, she was such an extraordinary person in her own right. There are many people who survive incredible hardships, and she certainly did. But to survive with your capacity for compassion for other people intact and not to turn hard and bitter yourself is, to me, extraordinary. And that was what drew me to her and to want to find out more about her.

McCunn has said that Polly Bemis reminded her of her own great-grandmother who was also born in northern China and sold into slavery. After Thousand Pieces of Gold was published, she learned that her father, who had died when she was a girl, had met Bemis when he was a teenager working summer jobs as a fire watcher in Idaho. [4]

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References

  1. http://www.learner.org/workshops/hslit/session7/aw/work2.html
  2. http://www.theliteratemother.org/thousand-pieces-of-gold-by-ruthanne-lum-mccunn
  3. "The Expanding Canon: Teaching Multicultural Literature - Authors and Literary Works". www.learner.org. Retrieved 2019-07-05.
  4. "Bookslut | An Interview with Ruthanne Lum McCunn". www.bookslut.com. Retrieved 2019-07-05.