Wooden Fish Songs by Ruthanne Lum McCunn Essay

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Wooden Fish Songs by Ruthanne Lum McCunn
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Wooden Fish Songs, a historical novel written by Ruthanne Lum McCunn, is written with three narrators. The main character in this story is Lue Gim Gong, a Chinese immigrant who gives up his country and family to pursue his passion for botany. Three women that knew him the best narrate Lue Gim Gong's story from three distinct cultures and three distinct points of view. They include his mother Sum Jui, his teacher Fanny Burlingame, and a friend that he makes named Sheba. Their contrasting perspectives are carefully interwoven from chapter to chapter. Lue, however, never gets a voice throughout the book; this makes Lue Gim Gong's life even more puzzling than it already is.
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Fanny also converts Lue to Christianity and encourages his garden research but keeps him financially dependent. Fanny is the daughter of a strict industrialist; she is well drawn in this novel. She is too strong to accept the lack of power women faced at the time. Uninterested in men, she invests all of her emotions in Jesus until she meets Lue Gim Gong.

She sees Lue as her creation; others see him as her pet. In fact, he is more independent than she can accept. Rudely rejecting the possibility of a positive influence from his own family, she says how she made him "as much of an improved variety of Chinaman as his salmonberry, cherry currant, and tomato were of plants"(McCunn, 154). Though her closeness to him it allows her to be offended by others' racism, as she regards him as someone special rather than a typical Chinaman. After Fanny's death, he was barred from the church they had regularly worshipped in, on account of his color.

Finally there is Sheba, Fanny's black servant whose father was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan shortly after winning his freedom from slavery. Sheba worked alongside Lue in the orange groves and probably understood him best. This is because Sheba's eyes were the least blinded by prejudice and ignorance. Unlike their white neighbors, neither Lue nor Sheba was too proud to share their different knowledge and company.

Sum Jui, Fanny, and Sheba are socially and culturally different in multiple

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