Wooden Fish Songs

A Novel

Ruthanne Lum McCunn
Foreword by King-Kok Cheung

  • $25.00s paperback (9780295987149) Add to Cart
  • hardcover not available
  • Published: 2007
  • Subject Listing: Asian American Studies; Literature / Fiction
  • Bibliographic information: 408 pp., 1 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Contents

"Wooden fish songs" were the laments sung by Chinese women left behind by husbands, sons, and brothers who, in the nineteenth century, sailed to America in quest of the good life - and found instead years of indentured servitude and racial discrimination. This novel focuses on Lue Gim Gong, a real-life Chinese pioneer, who seized the opportunity to go to America's "Gold Mountain." The story of his attempt to assimilate the new culture, his few successes and his frequent setbacks, is told not by himself but by the women who cared most about him: his mother in China, a New England spinster who loved him, and a friend and coworker who was the daughter of slaves. Ruthanne Lum McCunn brings her characters to life against a backdrop that ranges from China, with its deep roots in tradition, to the stern imperatives of a New England mill town and to 1870s Florida, where Lue developed the new species of frost-hardy oranges for which he is today remembered.

First published in 1995, this new edition includes an introduction by King-Kok Cheung, University of California, Los Angeles, and an afterword by the author.

For more information about the author go to
Ruthanne Lum McCunn is the author of the highly acclaimed novel Thousand Pieces of Gold, as well as a pictorial history, Chinese American Portraits: Personal Histories, 1828-1988. She was born in San Francisco's Chinatown and grew up in Hong Kong. She currently lives in San Francisco.For more information about the author go to

"Rich and beautiful storytelling, full of cultural nuance and finely crafted characters."

"Impressively researched and richly portrayed. . . . An inspiring story."
-San Francisco Chronicle

"The author's remarkable literary achievement here is that she has created the distinct voices of three very different characters who belong to, and who express, the traditions and values of their own rich cultures."
-Santa Rosa Press Democrat

"Tells an affecting story of a lonely, dedicated life."
-Publishers Weekly

"Perhaps the most amazing thing about this remarkable story is the extensive, wide-ranging, thorough research. . . . Lue Gim Gong's life seems almost too remarkable to be true, but it is clear that McCunn has recreated a culture and an era faithful to reality."