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C Pam Zhang

Novelist of How Much of These Hills is Gold and Land of Milk and Honey, and a National Book Foundation 2020 "5 Under 35" Honoree

  • About C Pam Zhang

    C Pam Zhang is the debut novelist of How Much of These Hills is Gold. The book was longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize and won the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association Adult Fiction Prize. Named a 2020 5 Under 35 honoree by the National Book Foundation, Zhang is one of the most electrifying new voices in literature today. She speaks to wide variety of audiences about reimagining history in her writing, how divesting from the cult of productivity can enhance one’s writing, and the ways grief and loss shape a writer’s work.

    In How Much of These Hills is Gold, C Pam Zhang reinvents the narrative of the American West by centering two newly orphaned children of immigrants. After the death of their parents, Lucy and Sam find themselves alone in a land that refutes their existence, and set off on an unforgettable journey of reckoning and resilience in the face of grief.

    Her newest bestselling novel, Land of Milk and Honey, is a rapturous and revelatory novel about a young chef whose discovery of pleasure alters her life and, indirectly, the world. This love letter to food, to wild delight, and to the transformative power of a woman embracing her own appetite was named a New York Times Notable Book, and a best book of the year by NPRHarper’s BazaarTown & Country, Esquire, and more.

    A finalist for the 2020 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the John Leonard Prize, How Much of These Hills is Gold was 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. The book was also granted the 2021 Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

    C Pam Zhang’s writing has appeared in various publications, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The Cut. Among her most widely shared pieces are her viral New York Times Modern Love essay, “Junk Food Was Our Love Language,” and a LitHub piece on writing in times of grief.

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  • Speaking Topics

    Land of Milk and Honey

    Award-winning author C Pam Zhang speaks about the message behind her second novel: looking beyond just survival. Writing Land of Honey and Milk a year into the pandemic, C Pam Zhang explores the quandary of seeking pleasure in a dying world. She shares the guilt she personally felt with her desire to go out for a meal and to travel amidst the death toll and infection rate. But as she wrote this second novel, she came to the realization that to survive is insufficient and the world is capable of offering more.

    How Much of These Hills Is Gold: Reimagined Histories

    C Pam Zhang’s award-winning novel, How Much of These Hills Is Gold, is a “revolutionary” reimagining of the American West through the eyes of two children of immigrants. The novel has been praised for its blend of long-overlooked history, magical realism, and stylistic innovation. In a lively talk that blends craft and personal elements, Zhang explores how research and living outside of America helped her break new ground in a genre often given over to tropes. Zhang explores the broken mythology of the American dream, how fictional narratives shape our understanding of our country, and how fiction can make a kind of reclamation possible for marginalized populations.

    Against Productivity and the Capitalist Clock

    How do artists and creative people divest from the cult of productivity? Drawing from her dual careers as a novelist and a creative director in the tech industry, C Pam Zhang speaks frankly about the practical and financial constraints of being a working writer in the twenty-first century. She explains why the adage of “write every day” does not work for many people, and how she found a different clock for her artistic practice. This talk includes practical advice and suggestions for finding the schedule that works for each individual—including periods that don’t look like “working”— and how to relieve oneself of unhelpful notions of guilt and productivity.

    How Grief Informs and Shapes a Writer

    Inspired by her viral New York Times Modern Love essay and a widely shared newsletter in LitHub, Zhang shares a powerful, intimate meditation on grief and how it shapes a writer. She discusses the particular grief she suffered as a child of immigrants who lost a parent, and how that loss and subsequent empathy shaped her writing. This is a universal, touching meditation for anyone who has slowly come to terms with a great loss, and a moving reflection on how grief seeps into an artist’s work in unexpected ways.

    Marginalization as a Site of Imagination

    Zhang speaks about the joys and possibilities of using marginalized identities as a creative starting point, rather than a constraint. From fictional dystopian futures to unrecorded historical pasts, Zhang celebrates how characters long considered marginal - queer, immigrant, impoverished, of a non-dominant race, etc - can unlock powerful new ways of seeing the world. Zhang shares her own experiences in pushing this idea through contemporary publishing. To quote Toni Morrison: "I stood at the border, stood at the edge and claimed it as central. l claimed it as central, and let the rest of the world move over to where I was."

  • Video

  • Praise for C Pam Zhang

    Praise for Land of Milk and Honey

    A sharp, sensual piece of art…This is an incredible exploration of whether it is possible to preserve one’s art when answering to a master that is not yourself. When I read I’m always searching for pleasure, for the want, and this book helped me feel something.

    Raven Leilani, New York Times bestselling author of Luster

    A book of appetite, rich with ideas and emotion. Zhang possesses a wonderfully bold and playful imagination; this novel is further proof of her extraordinary talent.

    Katie Kitamura, bestselling author of Intimacies

    The way Zhang writes about food and desire and human failings is exquisite—sensually detailed, at times visceral. This is a tremendous novel that explores the way people will break when the world itself is broken. Land of Milk and Honey is truly exceptional.

    Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling author of Bad Feminist

    Praise for How Much of These Hills is Gold

    Belongs on a shelf all of its own.


    Revolutionary . . . A visionary addition to American literature.

    Star Tribune

    An aching book, full of myths of Zhang’s making (including tigers that roam the Western hills) as well as joys, as well as sorrows. It’s violent and surprising and musical. Like Lucy and Sam, the novel wanders down byways and takes detours and chances. By journey’s end, you’re enriched and enlightened by the lives you have witnessed.

    The New York Times

    While the book presents a counter-narrative to conventional tales of America’s origins, it also interrogates the more intimate dimensions of belonging and memory, asking, over and over, ‘What makes a home a home?’

    The New Yorker

    Sure to be the boldest debut of the year.

    The Guardian

    A fully immersive epic drama packed with narrative riches and exquisitely crafted prose . . . Zhang captures not only the mesmeric beauty and storied history of America’s sacred landscape, but also the harsh sacrifices countless people were forced to make in hopes of laying claim to its bounty.

    San Francisco Chronicle

    Outstanding . . . Zhang does more than just push against the cowboy narrative: She shoves it clear out of the way. . . . at once subversive and searching

    The Washington Post

    Just as Zhang tinkers with Western tropes, she also plays with language, weaving Chinese phrases with cowboy drawl, merging myths of tigers with fables about where the buffalo roam. Her prose at its best can be heart-stoppingly lyrical.

    USA Today

    How Much of These Hills Is Gold is first and foremost a family story, a gorgeous novel that gives its characters room to learn, mourn, fight, and reinvent themselves. But it also reveals the flaws and false revisions in the American mythos, the ways we have never fully overcome the brutalities on which this country was built, and how much was lost, destroyed, and stolen in the pursuit of profit along the way.

    Chicago Review of Books

    Imaginative, vital . . . Zhang’s searing words pierce the heart of America’s founding mythology, laying bare its lies, and offering up a new, much-needed vision of this country and its people.


    As she depicts their journey, Zhang prompts the reader to think about whose stories are told from this period of American history—fictional or not—and adds her urgent voice to the genre.


    A world wrought of breath and blood and imagination.

    Lit Hub

    Stunning . . . a long-overdue treatment of the American West.


    Lyrical and mythic, How Much of These Hills Is Gold reconceives the immigrant narrative to tell an original story of racism and American greed.

    The A.V. Club

    C Pam Zhang’s electrifying debut is a sweeping work of historical fiction—the sort of masterpiece that immediately establishes an author as a force to be reckoned with.

    Harper’s Bazaar

    This moving tale of family, gold, and freedom rings with a truth that defies rosy preconceptions. The description of human and environmental degradation is balanced by shining characters who persevere greatly. Highly recommended.

    Library Journal (starred review)

    [An] extraordinary debut . . . Gorgeously written and fearlessly imagined, Zhang’s awe-inspiring novel introduces two indelible characters whose odyssey is as good as the gold they seek.

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

    Aesthetically arresting and a vital contribution to America’s conversation about itself.

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

    Daringly original . . . Zhang’s laser-sharp reexamination of America’s myth-laden past is likely to help bring clarity to many issues that continue to challenge us all.

    BookPage (starred review)

    Smart, beautiful, and intimate.

    The Millions

    Ferocious, dark and gleaming, a book erupting out of the interstices between myth and dream, between longing and belonging. How Much of These Hills Is Gold tells us that stories—like people, like the rough and stunning landscape of California itself—are constantly in the process of being made, broken, and finally remade into something tender and new.

    Lauren Groff, The New York Times–bestselling author of Fates and Furies

    A haunting, riveting and truly remarkable debut. Zhang writes with the clear-eyed lucidity of ancient mythmakers whose eyes are attuned to the vicissitudes of nature and humanity.

    Chigozie Obioma, author of Booker Prize finalist An Orchestra of Minorities

    This exhilarating novel unweaves the myths of the American West and offers in their place a gorgeous, broken, soulful, feral song of family and yearning, origin and earth. C Pam Zhang is a brilliant, fearless writer. This book is a wonder.

    Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You

    A truly gifted writer.

    Sebastian Barry, author of The Secret Scripture

    A ravishingly written revisionist story of the making of the West, C Pam Zhang’s debut is pure gold.

    Emma Donoghue, author of Room

    How Much of These Hills is a miracle, as timely as it is timeless, propulsive but also wonderfully meditative, a ferocious, tender epic about a vulnerable immigrant family trying to survive the American Gold Rush. I read it in one night and know I’ll revisit it soon: I envy you your first read of this book.

    R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries

    The writing here is intuitive, chewy, wonderful; the plot is devastating and the talent is dazzling. Zhang is a blazing writer.

    Daisy Johnson, author of Everything Under
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