Gish Jen Who's Irish?: Stories

ISBN 13: 9780375406218

Who's Irish?: Stories

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9780375406218: Who's Irish?: Stories
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In eight wonderfully alive stories, the acclaimed author of Mona in the Promised Land and Typical American chronicles Chinese and other Americans as they exuberantly win, lose, love, hate, overachieve, underachieve, and generally take on America--with sometimes comic, sometimes heartbreaking results.

Life now is not what it was a generation ago, but is it any easier? A Chinese-American woman attempts to discipline her Chinese-Irish-American grandchild, only to come up against her daughter's state-of-the-art parenting. A grown man flees to China to escape his disapproving mother, "who called every day, lest he forget she was not speaking to him." A computer expert accidentally books himself into a welfare hotel. A bohemian art student turned young mother finds herself entrenched in PTA meetings and soccer games when her WASP husband opts out and takes off for the woods. A family takes its first comically disastrous steps toward joining a country club. The stories in Who's Irish? prove once again that Gish Jen is an essential writer for our time--a writer who moves and entertains us as she updates the American Dream.

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Review:

Nobody writes about the immigrant experience like Gish Jen. What sets her apart from other ethnic writers is the wide-angle lens she turns not only on her own Chinese American ethnic group, but on Jewish Americans, African Americans, Irish Americans, and just about any other hyphenate you'd care to name. Though her tales are filtered through an Asian experience, they are, at heart, the quintessential American story of immigration, assimilation, and occasional tensions with other ethnic communities. The title story, for example, is a neat variation on a time-worn theme: mothers and daughters. The narrator is an elderly Chinese woman whose thoroughly assimilated daughter, Natalie, has married into an Irish American family. Natalie is successful; her husband, John, is not. Natalie's mother comments early on:

I always thought Irish people are like Chinese people, work so hard on the railroad, but now I know why the Chinese beat the Irish. Of course, not all Irish are like the Shea family, of course not. My daughter tell me I should not say Irish this, Irish that.
The narrator has other thoughts on the Irish question as well, including the connection between national diet and world view: "Plain boiled food, plain boiled thinking," she says of John, then adds that "because I grew up with black bean sauce and hoisin sauce and garlic sauce, I always feel something is missing when my son-in-law talk." But it soon becomes apparent that the problems between the narrator and her daughter's family are less cultural than generational, and in the end the mother forms a surprising alliance.

Jen comes at the question of identity from another angle in "Duncan in China," in which a second-generation Chinese American man returns to Mainland China to teach English. Here she manages to delicately suggest the enormity of the differences between the very American Duncan and his Chinese students, coworkers, and relatives. And in "Birthmates" she places her computer programmer protagonist, Art Woo, in close proximity to the low-income, mostly black residents of a welfare hotel that he's accidentally checked into. Class, race, gender, and job security all figure into this brilliant, subtle story that looks at the dark side of the American dream and finds that failure comes in all colors. These eight stories are sharply written, filled with humor, pathos, and more than a few surprising twists and turns. Quite simply, Who's Irish? is a delight. --Alix Wilber

From the Back Cover:

"Gish Jen's stories are keenly observed moments in time, in which the characters' foibles predominate just long enough for an odd equilibrium to be established between their yearning and their movement toward small, unexpected moments of grace. In many of the stories the characters seem to be trying on their lives for size: discomfiting to observe, though at the same time, offering the reader a sadness convincingly tinged with humor."
--Ann Beattie

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Gish Jen
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Book Description Knopf, 1999. Hardcover. Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition.... NEW YORK: Knopf, 1999. First edition. First printing. Hardcover. SIGNED BY AUTHOR on title page. New in dust jacket. Comes with mylar dust jacket protector. Shipped in well padded box. You cannot find a better copy. 0.0. Signed by Author(s). Seller Inventory # 4553

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