Ruthanne Lum McCunn is a writer of Chinese and Scottish descent whose award-winning work has been translated into eleven languages, published in twenty-two countries, and adapted for the stage and film.
Her first novel, THOUSAND PIECES OF GOLD, broke new ground in 1981 with the true story of a Chinese American pioneer's experiences as a slave and free woman in the Pacific Northwest. Acclaimed as a "stunning biography" by the Los Angeles Times, the novel was twice a Quality Paperback Book Club Alternate, made into a film, and selected by Washington State Library for Washington Reads.
All Ruthanne's subsequent books have likewise won acclaim. About her most recent novel, GOD OF LUCK, Phyllis T. Smith wrote in the November 2007 Historical Novels Review: "McCunn creates a world distant from us in both space and time, which seems absolutely authentic, and characters who are heartbreakingly real in their universal humanity." Alan Cheuse said on NPR's All Things Considered, "Its documented horrors, the devotion of a desperate wife, and the abiding hope of her distant husband held me captive from the start."
Now Ruthanne is again breaking new ground with CHINESE YANKEE, the true story of Thomas Sylvanus, born Ah Yee Way. Brought to America for schooling but enslaved in Baltimore, Thomas—only sixteen at the outbreak of war—ran to freedom in Philadelphia and enlisted in the Union Army. Although blinded in the war's first major campaign, he stayed in the fight. Moreover, when all the color guard had fallen in the bloodbath of Spotsylvania, he seized the regiment's colors, kept them flying. Captured in the final year of the war, he survived nine months imprisonment in Andersonville. Lamed, too, and his health broken, but his spirit intact, he battled for survival and justice for his family and himself until his death in 1891.
"I felt an immediate kinship with Thomas because we both come from Hong Kong," Ruthanne says. "I was also excited that despite the thousands of Civil War books, his life would give readers a completely new story, one that would be a page-turner."
Ruthanne's taught at Cornell University, the University of California at Santa Cruz, and the University of San Francisco. A co-founder of the Chinese Historical Society of America's annual journal, she served on its editorial committee for over twenty years. Ruthanne lives in San Francisco with her husband, Don, and two cats..