An electrifying new voice in literature tells a story about the American West that you’ve never heard.
Author: Matthew Cook
C Pam Zhang headshot

In 1848, James W. Marshall was building John Sutter’s lumber mill in Coloma, California when glimmering from within the American River caught his eye. It turned out to be gold. And that turned out to be the beginning of the California Gold Rush.

Ask anyone who isn’t a history buff what they know about the gold rush, and they’ll likely mention “forty-niners” and prospectors panning for gold. Want a fresh take? Read How Much of These Hills Is Gold. In her debut novel, C Pam Zhang offers a unique narrative for this period in the American West.

In How Much of These Hills Is Gold, Zhang tells the story of two newly orphaned children of Asian immigrants, Lucy and Sam. Alone in a land that refutes their existence, they set off on a journey to bury their father. It’s a sibling adventure story that explores the concepts of race, belonging, family, and home. And it succeeds in doing so at an incredibly high level. The book was longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize and won the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association Adult Fiction Prize. It was also dubbed a Notable Book of 2020 by The New York Times and The Washington Post and named one of Barack Obama’s Favorite Books of 2020.

Zhang, one of the most electrifying new voices in literature today, has previously written for The New Yorker, The Cut, and The New York Times, in which you may have read her article “Junk Food Was Our Love Language.”

On January 31, Zhang will bring her storytelling to the University of Rochester through the River Campus Libraries’ Neilly Author Series. The author will give a free virtual talk from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. EST via Zoom. Registration is required to attend.

There’s also still plenty of time for you to read the book, which we strongly encourage. Get your copy through the University of Rochester bookstore. ∎

All Neilly Author Series talks are free and open to the public, made possible by the Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Endowed Fund. For more information on C Pam Zhang’s lecture, contact Kim Osur, development manager at the River Campus Libraries, at

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