Thousand Pieces Of Gold: A Biographical Novel
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Thousand Pieces Of Gold: A Biographical Novel

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  895 ratings  ·  118 reviews
Lalu Nathoy's father called his thirteen-year-old daughter his treasure, his "thousand pieces of gold," yet when famine strikes northern China in 1871, he is forced to sell her. Polly, as Lalu is later called, is sold to a brothel, sold again to a slave merchant bound for America, auctioned to a saloonkeeper, and offered as a prize in a poker game. This biographical novel...more
Published by Design Enterprises of San Francisco (first published 1983)
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I loved this book, not only because of the good writing, but because Polly Bemis, the 13 year old girl, lived in Warren City, Idaho, where my maternal grandfather was born. My great grandfather and my grandfather knew both her and her husband Charlie Bemis. So, I have stood on the steps of her house in Warren and feel as though her history is also a part of my family's history.
Joy H.
Added 3/27/11.
_Thousand Pieces of Gold_ (1983) by Ruthanne Lum McCunn

GR reviewer, Sarah, wrote: "This is about one of Idaho's most famous pioneers, Polly Bemis.".
GR reviewers indicate this is easy reading and interesting, but the writing is poor.

Adapted to film (1991):
"In 1880's China, young Lalu is sold into marriage by her impoverished father. Rather than becoming a bride, Lalu ends up in an Idaho gold-mining town...more
Hamzah Al Asadulloh
McCunn's descriptions of the novel's settings are incredibly vivid and illustrative; her choice of words are definitely not superfluous which gives a touch of simplicity to the tale she weaves. The emotions she tries to capture of her characters in the novel are portrayed perfectly through her words, most notably the scenes that involved intense movements and actions filled with tension and suspense.

However, it is important to comment on her failure to mention worldwide events, such as the Great...more
I really enjoyed this book, both as a bit of Idaho history and as a well told, and unique story. I read it while I hiked through the Frank Church Wilderness, where the Salmon River flows and near where the story primarily takes places. I read the ebook version which included an essay added later after publication in which the author explained in detail how she compiled the history and facts to tell Polly Bemis's story, told as a biographical novel. It's worth finding that version, not only to un...more
This was the first book I read by this author and had inspired me to read all her books. The saga of Lalu, who was her father's "thousand pieces of gold", sold by him and ended up in the US, was riveting. I remember sighing after finishing the book and wanting more.
Elgin Park Library
This biographical novel takes us on a journey through the life of a young Chinese girl in the 1800s - Lalu Nathoy. She is sold by her father into a life of prostitution and slavery. Lalu is illegally transported to America where she is forced to work for, and belong to, a horrible man named Hong King. Hong is a Saloon owner in Gold Mountain, Idaho - a mining town during the hold rush. It is there she meets Charlie Bemis, an amazing man who tries to save her from a life of slavery. This was a fas...more
This is a powerful biographical novel that is as telling about the United states and its treatment of Chinese immigrants in the 19th century as it is about the particular events of the subject, Lalu Nathoy's, life.

Lalu is a very strong woman, the quintessential survivor. She is sold as a girl into prostitution and slavery, hauled illegally into the United States, sold again, suffers one horrific outrage and humiliation after the other at the hands of white Western men, witnesses endless similar...more
Makaely Shoen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Anneke Dubash
I first read this quite a number of years ago and have come back to it several times.

It is a fascinating look into the life of a Chinese woman trying to make her way in the New World.

For some reason, this is usually referred to as "fiction" when it is, in fact, a biographical story. Unfortunately, the fact that it is mistaken for fiction entirely, has led some to rankle at some of the more violent events, even calling the characterization of the events leading up to Lalu Nathoy's arrival in Amer...more
Charley Harpole
This book starts out in China during a famine, during 1871. Food is expensive and money is scarce. When a man shows at Lalu's house and throws a bag of money at her father. He has no choice but to sell his daughter into slavery. She is then smuggled into the United States and sold to a saloon owner and becomes Polly. After many hardships over the years, Polly becomes one of the most powerful prostitutes, she is even able to buy her own freedom. After falling in love, Polly refuses to marry in fe...more
Thousand Pieces of Gold tells the true story of Lalu Nathoy, who grows up for the first decade of her life in the male dominated world of the late 1800's in China. Her Father unlike many other men calls her his 'thousand pieces of gold', and even when hard times come, resists the urge to sell her as his only daughter but when the family is threatened by bandits a few years later as he is watching his sons and wives starve cultural and societal pressures come together and Lalu's Father sells her...more
11/16: I seem to always need a novel going, or at least some form of firm narrative. I'm on pg. 50 as of last night: incredibly zippy reading, not terribly wonderful writing either, though I am interested in the transportation aspect--the arrival in a new place and time that is perfectly and uniquely unfamiliar to me. I found myself wiggling my toes, grateful for the freeing, unbound feeling of the body during pregnancy. I may be wearing strange apparatuses (see: braces on both wrists, Bella Ban...more
LonewolfMX Luna
Jul 28, 2008 LonewolfMX Luna rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anybody who likes Biographies
Recommended to LonewolfMX by: Professor Michael Ward
Read it last year, but I found out about the book two years back when I was in Ventura College when I took a world history course. I watched the movie A Thousand Pieces of Gold starring Rosalind Chao to explain Chinese immigration to the early West.

The book is about Lalu Nathoy a Chinese girl sold off to bandits a later to a brothel in 1853. This girl endured many hardships from such as being separated from her family to being sent off to the far away land across the ocean known as Gold Mountain...more
Based on a true story. Lalu is a grew up in a small town in China. While times were hard she helped her father in the field, helping with the farming, which was unheard of for a woman. Bandits arrived and her father sold her to them for the price of two bags of seed, for the land was dry and there was a drought. The bandits sold her to a brothel in another town which in turn sold her to a company in America who sold Chinese women to the highest bidders. She was displayed in a small underground r...more
This books isn't great literature but a fast read and an interesting one, at that. It focuses on a Chinese girl sold by her father to a bandit, who then sells her to a brothel, which then sells her to a broker smuggling women into America illegally. She is auctioned to a saloonkeeper in Idaho and then lost in a card game. Her desire to escape slavery and make a life for herself in the American West is absorbing. I realized that what I've read of Chinese in the West has been almost completely abo...more
This is a very touching story about a chinese woman and his life from the early days of adolescence in China and her's end of life in America. And she was not one of the people that choosed to emigrate into USA, she was forced to do that. But I do not want to spoil this highly emotional story. Please read if you have the book. I will unveil only the fact that this book is dealing a lot also with feelings of Polly/Lulu (main character) and you can find out parts of immigrants worries in the end o...more
This book was realy sad for me, but has some happy parts. This book takes place during the gold rush in California, and the discimination of Chinease in America. It talks about a young girl named Lalu, who is sold by her father to get money to buy some food for the family. Lalu experiences an adventure that nobody could dream of having. Lalu knows how it feels to be a lable owned by another human being. She could tell you how it feels to be raped, humiliated, and gambled for. In the end Lalu mar...more
This book is based on the real life story of Lalu, later Polly, who was sold by her family during a famine to bandits, sold to a brothel, and then sent to America and bought as a slave by another Chinese settler where she settled in Idaho in mining town. I found the story compelling and well written up through her journey to Idaho. After that, it jumped too much and without smooth transitions. Polly was an enduring character, but the actual development of her wasn't there as I wished it had been...more
Sad story very similar to The Good Earth and other novels that tell of hard times in China and the struggle of Chinese women of the time. I appreciated this more since it is biographical. It is well written. A bit mature in subject matter (ie not YA lit).
This "novel" is a re telling of the true story of a young Chinese woman who is sold by her poor family into slavery in the 1800's. She eventually makes her way to the US. The author seems to be a historian instead of a novelist and the prose is the poorer for it. Except perhaps for the mention of forced sexual relations, would be good as a young adult history book.
Rachel Lu
This is a great biography novel about Chinese immigrants. Polly was sold by her family to bandits, and she was sold again and again and finally she settle down in Idaho. From Laulu (later Polly)'s life we could envision life trajectory of other Chinese immigrants during 19th century. Immigration history could be viewed as a specific individual story and also a general history of a group people who share the same ethnic origin. The story reflected a bigger picture of Chinese immigrants who were f...more
Renee Legris
One of my favorite books ever! Wonderful intersection of autobiography + history. It's the story of a young Chinese woman who is sold into slavery and comes to the western US during the Gold Rush. She creates such an authentic sense of place - I grew up in northern California gold country, and the whole time I was sure this had to have happened there (not quite right, but close). It's one of those uplifting "magnificence of the human spirit" stories, and the love story will just kill you. The ad...more
Based on the true story of a Chinese woman, sold into slavery by her father, and later freed to become the first Chinese woman settler in Idaho. The story itself is fascinating, but I was a bit disappointed with the way it was written. It seemed to be on fastforward. One or two incidents about each decade of her life would be told and then BLIP, now she's doing this, BLIP, now she's doing this! Her feet were bound as a baby, and then unbound a few years later, resulting in a permanent limp and d...more
Interesting story and a fast read. I liked that it is a true story but thought it jumped ahead too much in places. The writing wasn't great either. But I liked it.
Aug 15, 2008 Sarahldalton rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone who's curious about US History late 19/early 20th century
Recommended to Sarahldalton by: a student
I'm going to be teaching this book in the Fall in my American Literature class. It is very easy, fast reading if you just look at the word level fluency. I'm not the biggest fan of the simplicity of her language or style of writing, hence the 3 stars. Still, it tells the story of a Chinese woman's immigration experience to the US during the Gold Rush which is not a voice heard much in history or literature classes. So far, I'm half way completed and the author has captured the living history of...more
Feb 08, 2009 Lataun rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mom, grandma Eddins
Recommended to Lataun by: Selina
I want to meet Polly Bemis someday. I opened the book and read the acknowledgements and was surprised to see the author thanking the Idaho Historical Board. I didn't know that this story of a chinese girl forcefully sold when she was 14 ended up in Idaho by the Salmon River.

I really enjoyed this book and want to go visit her little farm. I was thinking about her being torn from her parents at such a young age and coming to a foriegn land never to hear from her family again. I imagined the reuni...more
Great book! Read this the first time while camping in Salmon, Idaho...very close to where this took place.
Sam Johansen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I liked this novel, though it will not serve the purpose for which I read it. The 9th grade team wanted to add it to the coming of age unit, but the protagonist's life extends from her girlhood in China where her father sold her for two bags of seed to her old age in a gold mining town in Idaho. Lalu certainly does come of age in this novel, but that is only a fraction of the plot. This novel was particularly engaging to me because I read it on a flight to California, where I was going to visit...more
Excellent book on early Idaho history!
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