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C Pam Zhang, the author of a Booker Prize finalist, to give talk in Lake Oswego

COURTESY PHOTO - Zhang

To C Pam Zhang, inspiration for literary fiction derives from the subconscious mind rather than the conscious recounting of lived experience.

And yet, the characters in her Booker Prize- nominated debut novel "How Much of These Hills is Gold" — the book of choice for the Lake Oswego Reads 2022 program — face similar contemplations about the meaning of home and struggles with assimilation as she did growing up as a Chinese immigrant in the United States.

"My childhood had always been one in which I never really had a sense of where I belonged or feeling like an outsider and questioning my place in the world," she said in an interview with Pamplin Media Group.

As the concluding event of this year's program, Zhang will give a talk and answer questions from the audience at 7 p.m. Friday, April 29, at the Lakeridge High School auditorium. The event is free but tickets are required with a Lake Oswego Library card. However, people can also watch it on the Lake Oswego Public Library YouTube channel and the Tualatin Valley Community Television website.

"I'm going to talk about the entire life journey it takes to write a first book and how much of what had to happen before I wrote this book was to think very deeply about what it meant to me to be American and look past the easy and simplistic narrative of Americanness and immigration and the spirit of pulling oneself by their bootstrap," Zhang said.

The author relished reading American epics like "Little House on the Prairie'' or novels by John Steinbeck but felt that an element was missing from these tales — people who resembled her own family. So she wanted to write her own version.

"How Much of These Hills is Gold" follows two sisters, Sam and Lucy, as they navigate life on their own after their father, Ba, dies. The sisters couldn't be more dissimilar. Sam is confident, androgynous and aggressive — and was beloved by Ba — while Lucy is timid, feminine and obedient and felt less loved by her father. These characters reflect Zhang's interest in exploring the ways in which people who are close to each other form their own identity in opposition or reflection of each other and also to show two sides of the minority experience in America.

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Lake Oswego Reads extravaganza culminates with a visit from the author of the selected book.

Zhang grew up moving from city to city in America — 18 times before college —and her experience living in California was particularly influential to the story. She said her mind conjuring a golden hill was a key moment in the book's creation. However, Zhang wrote the book while living in Bangkok, Thailand. As exemplified by James Baldwin writing thoughtfully about race in America while living in France, Zhang said distance is the best way to find perspective.

"Personally I find it impossible to write anything true and profound about a place when you're in the middle of it. Distance helps you see much more clearly," she said.

The book was released in April of 2020 — just as the pandemic was shutting down America. Zhang feels some sadness about not getting to experience the typical rollout associated with the release — most notably interacting with readers who have moving and sometimes unpredictable reactions.

Zhang will get a taste of that again at the Lake Oswego Reads event.

"It's amazing to me the sometimes intimate stories people will share with you because something in the book has touched them. It's incredibly powerful and a privilege to have those conversations," she said.

Lake Grove plant sale

The Huge Lake Grove Garden Club's early-bird plant sale will be held 8 a.m. to noon April 30 at Our Lady of the Lake School, 6th Street & A Avenue in Lake Oswego.

Perennials, shrubs, trees and native plants will be on sale at the club's 96th annual sale. Profits from the sale will go toward charities and public gardens.

Cinco de Mayo in Willamette

The Historic Willamette Main Street organization and businesses of West Linn's Willamette district will celebrate Cinco de Mayo, 4-8 p.m. Thursday May 8.

The celebration will include outdoor market vendors on Main Street, a kids' scavenger hunt, a raffle and specials offered by various businesses.

A night of laughs

The Lake Oswego Adult Community Center will host Susan Rice — a previous winner of Willamette Week's Portland's Funniest Person contest — for a comedy show 7 p.m. Thursday, April 28. Rice has appeared on "Portlandia" as well as other TV shows. The event is $20 for Lake Oswego residents and $25 for non-residents. Light refreshments will be provided and beer and wine will be available for purchase.

Drink and dance

Attend "Mausoleum: A Drink & Dance Pairing Event" 7 p.m. April 29 and 30 at Chapel Theatre, 4107 S.E. Harrison St. in Milwaukie. Tickets cost $25. To buy tickets, visit tripthedark-dance-co.ticketleap.com/mausoleum.

Visit Ermatinger House

Explore your creativity at the Ermatinger House — with tools and help provided by a Three River Artist Guild member and poet — 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 30. To RSVP, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 971-219-4881. The house is located at 619 Sixth Street in Oregon City.

Spring Garden Fair

The Spring Garden Fair will be held 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 30 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 1 at Clackamas County Events Center in Canby. It will include more than 140 vendors and programs such as pH soil testing and Ask an OSU Master Gardener will be available. Admission is $5 and parking is free.

Tree seedling event

Lake Oswego Public Library tree seedling event

From April 22-29, the children's section of the Lake Oswego Public Library is giving away locally grown Douglas fir seedlings to children in celebration of Earth and Arbor Day.

Screening of 'The Greenest Building'

On April 28, starting at 6:30 p.m., the Lake Oswego Preservation Society will screen the documentary "The Greenest Building" at Lake Theater in downtown Lake Oswego.

Oak Grove Garden Club

The Oak Grove Garden Club's annual plant sale at Risley Landing Gardens will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 30 at 16295 SE River Forest Place in Oak Grove.

Friends of Gladstone Nature Park

The Friends of Gladstone Nature Park plant sale will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 30 at 18111 Webster Road in Gladstone.

Spring Fling Art Festival

The festival, which features artists selling jewelry, photography, mosaics and many other forms, will be held 12-5 p.m. May 6 at Oregon City Golf Club, 20124 South Beavercreek Road. The event is organized by Three Rivers Artist Guild.

CREST 20th Anniversary Celebration

On Saturday April 30, community members are invited to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the CREST program in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District.

CREST, otherwise known as Center for Research in Environmental Sciences and Technologies, has been an education center in the district since 2002, and provides outreach and on-site programs.

The event is open to all, and there will be a variety of activities, music and food for sale provided by two local food carts.

The event will be held from 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at 11265 SW Wilsonville Road.

To have an event highlighted in the events page, contact assistant editor Corey Buchanan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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