How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang (Riverhead Press, 2020)
Stone Sky, Gold Mountain by Mirandi Riwoe (University of Queensland Press. 2020)
These two novels examine identity and belonging among young Chinese immigrants during the American and Australian gold rushes.
Zhang’s book tells the story of a husband and wife and their two daughters, although the bulk of the book concerns the efforts of sisters Lucy and Sam to survive without adult assistance, find a livelihood, and figure out where they can make a place for themselves. Their adventures are both brutally realistic and magical. How Much of These Hills is Gold also explores the things that unite and divide these two siblings. Lucy and Sam are so different yet welded together by blood and circumstance. Each is on a personal journey to create a new self in this new land.
Riwoe’s novel also features two siblings. Brother and sister Lai Yue and Mei Ying have left their family behind to earn enough money to solve its financial problems. But they struggle to eke out a living in the gold fields and eventually settle in a nearby town. Lai Yue ends up working on an Outback sheep station, while Ying finds work in a store and befriends Meriem, a young white woman who has been ostracized. When a serious crime occurs, suspicion falls on these outsiders.
Both novels present readers with a different and necessary view of our countries’ mythologized pasts and both feature alternately lyrical and muscular prose that makes for an absorbing read. You will find these four characters and their experiences haunting and enlightening.