C Pam Zhang: Don’t Worry About My Book. Worry About Bookstores.
In Conversation with Kendra Winchester on the Reading Women Podcast
On today’s episode, Kendra talks with C Pam Zhang about her debut novel, How Much Of These Hills Is Gold, out now from Riverhead.
From the episode:
Kendra: So I feel like the question of the hour that most people are asking is, “How are you doing right now?”
Pam: Yeah, I have good and bad days. I think mostly in San Francisco, where I’m located, it feels more surreal than anything because at least my friend circle here hasn’t been hard hit. The city has been doing pretty decently since we’ve been sheltering in place since March. So everything looks the same when I go outside to walk my dog. There’s still people on the streets, they’re just wearing masks. So it’s a little hard to reconcile that with the reality of what’s going on in New York and what’s going on around the world. I only get those reports back from the news and from friends who I can’t see in person anymore.
Kendra: It definitely is a weird isolation factor, how it’s playing out in different areas. My husband’s family is from the Bay Area, and so we’ve been checking in on his granny, and it’s just a lot. I feel like the Bay Area locked down pretty quickly.
Pam: Yeah, it is a little scary, though, because I now know of people who are well informed and smart and all that who are starting to sort of relax here. Two coworkers of mine who I realized that they were meeting together in person, and I was like, no, why are you doing this?
Kendra: Yeah, it’s nervewracking. I feel like this is just our continual state, and hopefully we’ll able to press on, and people will do what they’re supposed to do and stay home. I really enjoyed reading as an escape and to learn the wide range of things that books do for us. I just finished your book yesterday . . . I had all of the feelings that you do at the end of a wonderful book, going on this journey with this family. So I’m very excited to talk to you about your debut today, How Much Of These Hills Is Gold. How has it been like publishing your debut? I feel like that’s always a very special occasion.
Pam: Yeah, I guess I’m just going to keep harping on the theme of surreality during our conversation, but that’s been the main thing. You know, there was some grief at the beginning over not being able to go out and celebrate, but that kind of dissipated because as unfortunate as this is, I have to remind myself that the whole point of writing a book is that books live very long lives. They can find readers for years and years and years. I’m honestly far more worried about the health of indie bookstores because they’ve always been hanging on by a thread, and it’s just really important to support them in this time, which I actually feel like people have been doing more so because Amazon is unreliable for books and for a lot of things. So, you know, on a positive note, maybe we’ll come out of this pandemic with an increased awareness of our purchasing patterns and which local businesses we’re supporting.
Born in Beijing but mostly an artifact of the United States, C Pam Zhang has lived in thirteen cities across four countries and is still looking for home. She’s been awarded support from Tin House, Bread Loaf, Aspen Words and elsewhere, and currently lives in San Francisco.