by Ruthanne Lum McCunn
In 1871 a famine swept China, and an impoverished peasant sold his young daughter into slavery. Lalu went through the hands of many abusive owners in China, then was shipped to America where she ended up sold at auction to be the slave of a Chinese saloon-keeper in California. He treated her terribly. Polly (as she was renamed in America) suffered for years under his ownership but never gave up hope of improving her situation. Eventually she was used as transaction in a gambling bet and won by a new owner, a white man called Charlie. A much kinder man, he bought Polly her freedom and together they ran a boarding house. Slowly their partnership developed into a romance, which was quite controversial back then- racism is also part of this story. Polly finally found some happiness in marriage to Charlie, but even then her trials and heartaches were not over….
Thousand Pieces of Gold is full of interesting history, especially depicting how poorly Chinese immigrants were treated on the western frontier. Unfortunately, it\’s not very well-written. Despite the turmoil of events it chronicles (which are based on a true story) and oppressive situations Polly lives through, the book did little to touch my emotions. It\’s just not very memorable. I would recommend it if you\’re really interested in learning more about Chinese Americans in the 1800\’s. But as far as inspirational stories about women overcoming adversity, it leaves a lot to be desired.
Rating: 2/5 338 pages, 2002