In C Pam Zhang’s stunning debut novel How Much of These Hills Is Gold, two young siblings set out to bury their father. That’s a difficult task that only gets more difficult and more dangerous. What unrolls from this inauspicious beginning is a breathtaking journey across the West, full of struggle, and a look back at their father’s fevered ambitions, and how they came to be outcasts. It’s a story of people who are broken but, in their devotion to each other, are also unbreakable.
Zhang’s writing is beautiful, powerful, cinematic. And she doesn’t “re-imagine” the Western frontier so much as render it more fully and more inclusively than we’re accustomed to reading. Set against the Gold Rush and the early arrivals of Chinese Americans to this land, How Much of These Hills Is Gold is, as author R.O. Kwon (The Incendiaries) puts it, “ferocious, tender epic.” For her effort, Zhang was longlisted for the Booker Prize.
Musing founding editor Mary Laura Philpott will moderate the Coffee With Authors session, sponsored by the Women’s National Book Association, at the Southern Festival of Books. That event takes place online this Sunday, Oct. 4 at 2pm, and will feature Zhang alongside fellow authors Samira Ahmed (Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know) and Brit Bennett (The Vanishing Half). As always, the festival is free! Unlike always, you won’t have to worry about reserving a seat for this session (unless someone in your household wants the computer that day).
Check out the rest of the Southern Festival of Books schedule online here. Meanwhile, get to know C Pam Zhang as she answers our Authors in Real Life questionnaire.
I’ve been listening to: Old school Tame Impala and the You’re Wrong About podcast.
I love to watch: Top Chef, Terrace House.
Something I saw online that made me laugh, cry, or think: An out-of-work bartender serving formula to his toddler with the most beautiful swooping moves. I appreciate our service workers so, so much.
Best meal I’ve had in the past month: Fried chicken made, out of desperation, by me.
A creator who’s doing something I admire or envy: Michaela Coel.
A book I recently recommended to someone else: The Mountain Lion by Jean Stafford, Luster by Raven Leilani, Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz.
The last event I bought tickets to was: The New York Film Festival’s virtual screening of Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue by Jia Zhangke.
Most meaningful recent travel destination: The lush, green border of California and Oregon, just before the fires hit.
I wish I knew more about: Architecture, and how to physically fix things.
My favorite thing about bookstores: Browsing bookseller recommendations!
The Southern Festival of Books
What: Talks and conversations featuring more than 100 of the nation’s foremost writers
When: Through Sunday, October 11, 2020
For information on schedule and how to access, click here, or download the festival app (Android or Apple). Buy all festival titles online at the official shop.