After the death of their father, two orphaned siblings, Sam and Lucy, leave their western mining town and travel through the region with his body in tow, seeking to give him a proper burial. Selected for Alta Journal’s California Book Club, C Pam Zhang’s debut novel, How Much of These Hills Is Gold, blends adventure, history, and a reimagined West with reflections on grief, family, and the Chinese American experience. Through the perspectives of these children, Zhang adds new, unheard voices to the sprawling mythology of the American West.
This article appears in the Fall 2021 issue of Alta Journal.
Which writer, past or present, would you most like to read your book?
I would be so curious to raise John Steinbeck from the dead, see him react to 2021, and then hold our visions of California up to the light together.
Did you travel to any specific locations during the process of writing your novel?
Locke, California, for not very fruitful on-the-ground research and Bangkok, Thailand, for necessary imaginative distance.
What is a piece of art you cannot live without?
After a long and crampy day of writing, the smooth lines of my massage gun bring me to a state of transcendental bliss.•