Wooden Fish Songs

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Overview


Ruthanne Lum McCunn, author of the acclaimed THOUSAND PIECES OF GOLD, introduces the fascinating life story of Gim Gong Lue, a nineteenth-century horticultural pioneer. The dynamic narrative is told from the perspective of the three women who knew him best, his mother in China, a New England spinster, and his friend, a former slave.

This new novel from the author of Thousand Pieces of Gold reclaims a lost figure of Chinese-American history, Lue Gim Gong, who put his...

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2000-06-09 Paperback New The item is from a closeout sale from bookstore. A great book in new condition! Inquires welcomed and we want your complete satisfaction! Eligible for ... FREE Super Saving Shipping! Fast Amazon shipping plus a hassle free return policy mean your satisfaction is guaranteed! Tracking number provided in your Amazon account with every order. Item is Brand New! Read more Show Less

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Overview


Ruthanne Lum McCunn, author of the acclaimed THOUSAND PIECES OF GOLD, introduces the fascinating life story of Gim Gong Lue, a nineteenth-century horticultural pioneer. The dynamic narrative is told from the perspective of the three women who knew him best, his mother in China, a New England spinster, and his friend, a former slave.

This new novel from the author of Thousand Pieces of Gold reclaims a lost figure of Chinese-American history, Lue Gim Gong, who put his genius for plants to work in Florida, creating the orange hybrids that earned him international renown as a "plant wizard." Lue's story is told by three women in his life, his mother, a friend and a co-worker.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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. (May)
KLIATT
Toishan, China is about as far removed from North Adams, Massachusetts as one can get—especially in the 1800s. These are the two settings for this look at the lives of the various characters in this novel. We meet Sum Jui in 1842 in Toishan. Her family is poor and life in China is hard. She marries into another family when she is 13 years old. Things do not improve despite her having sons, a precious commodity. Family rivalries cause her much grief. One son is given to her sister-in-law to raise, another son leaves to seek his fortune in the land of the Gold Mountains (the U.S.). The son in the U.S., Lue Gim Gong, ends up in North Adams. There a benevolent spinster teaches him to read and encourages his belief in Jesus as well as promoting his talents in plant biology. Bad luck, ill fortune, and hardship seem to be the main roads these people follow. Some good things occur, but not frequently. Yet this sad story is uplifting. Lue works hard and achieves some small recognition for all his efforts. This historical fiction is compelling because the reader cares about the characters. It provides a good look at life in China and the U.S. during the years 1840 to 1900. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1995, Beacon, 384p, 21cm, 00-029788, $14.00. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Robin S. Holab-Abelman; Libn., US Court, Mobile, AL, September 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 5)
Library Journal
The story of Lue Gim Gong, a Chinese immigrant who gave up his country and family to pursue his passion for botany, is told in this historical novel through the voices of three women representing three distinct cultures and three distinct points of view. We hear alternately from Sum Jui, Lue's mother, who lives with her husband's family in a small rural village in China; Fanny, a New England spinster who converts Lue to Christianity and encourages his botanical research but keeps him financially dependent; and Sheba, the daughter of slaves, who is a servant to Fanny's sister in Florida. Although the narratives provide much detail about the lives of these three women and the differences and similarities in their cultures, they never develop beyond types, and the story becomes tedious. Nevertheless, the reader learns something about Lue's work and is given the opportunity to think about cultural conflict, the evils of racism, and the opportunities lost to blind prejudice. McCunn is the author of the well-received Thousand Pieces of Gold: A Biographical Novel (1981). Recommended for most libraries.-Rebecca Stuhr-Rommereim, Grinnel Coll. Libs., Iowa
Gail Tsukiyama
Impressively researched and richly portrayed…An inspiring story.
— Gail Tsukiyama,San Francisco Chronicle
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807062296
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 6/9/2000
  • Series: Blue Streak Series
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 5.42 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author


Ruthanne Lum McCunn was born in Hong Kong and has published seven books on the experiences of Chinese people in America; more than 275,000 copies of her books are in print.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2004

    Not one of your usual subjects

    When I first picked this book up, I thought 'Who in their right mind would write about a Chinese horticulturist.' But this is a wonderful book about family and Chinese culture.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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