Brilliant, funny, and ever-surprising, Gish Jen tackles the issues of our time with originality and heart. Her most recent novel, The Resisters, imagines an America some fifty years from now, in which surveillance technology supports a new Jim Crow—challenged by a girl with a golden arm and an underground baseball league. Ann Patchett insists this novel “should be required reading for the country” and calls it “a stone-cold masterpiece.” The New York Times agrees that “it grows directly out of the soil of our current political moment” while NPR observes that “with her characteristic generosity, Jen offers hope that, after a long, misbegotten seventh-inning stretch, Americans will once again take up the hard work of participatory democracy.”
“Triumphantly original… The Resisters is a 1984 for our times.”
It is not the first time Jen has addressed the American Dream—or nightmare—with boldness and élan. Many of her early novels are classics of American immigrant literature, distinguished by an inimitable blend of charm and vision. Her debut novel, Typical American—a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award—seeks to redefine Americanness as a preoccupation with identity. As soon as you ask yourself, what does it mean to be Iranian American, Syrian American, or Chinese American, she argued in this book, you are American. In Mona in the Promised Land—a book author Amy Tan called “both hilariously funny and seriously important”—a Chinese American teenager converts to Judaism, raising questions about whether we are defined by choice or blood. The Love Wife explores the experiences of mixed-race families in what Michiko Kakutani called “a big story about families and identity and race and the American Dream” on the eve of 9/11. What, this novel asks, will happen to our great American hospitality now? And World and Town follows a retired schoolteacher through her move to a small New England town challenged by globalization. In the words of Entertainment Weekly, “In this thick, satisfying sprawl of a read, Jen gracefully introduces some of the great issues of our time: how the shock of 9/11 reverberated from city to town; how lost souls can cling meanly to fundamentalism; how it feels when a chain store bulldozes into a mom-and-pop community, or a family farm finally collapses.”
“Gish Jen is the Great American Novelist we’re always talking about.”
—Junot Diaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
A true Renaissance woman, Jen explores our changing world in her nonfiction as well. In The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap, Jen offers a provocative and essential look at the different ideas Eastern and Western cultures have about self and society. Drawing on personal experience, a wealth of illuminating anecdotes, and insights from cultural psychology, Jen enriches our understanding of ourselves and our world. Writing in The Washington Post, novelist Lisa See called The Girl at the Baggage Claim “timely and extremely important…. Gish Jen has once again taken the universal and made it personal, and vice versa.”
“Gish Jen is at the forefront of American writers dealing with that most basic of American issues―who we are as a country and a culture. Her work is as serious and important as this issue, but her books and stories are nevertheless a joy to read, full of wit, humor, nuance, and emotion.”
―Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer
Asked to give the Massey Lectures in the History of American Civilization at Harvard University in 2012, Jen interwove her father’s life story with cutting-edge research to reveal and explain cultural differences in narrative. Her lectures―published by Harvard University Press as Tiger Writing: Art, Culture and the Interdependent Self―have since become a mainstay of creative writing courses. Novelist Junot Diaz calls Tiger Writing “penetrating, inspired, and, yes, indispensable… a profound meditation on the divergent roles that storytelling, artmaking, and selfhood take on across the East-West divide.”
“I am proud, proud, proud to share ancestors―and the novel and the world―with Gish Jen.”
―Maxine Hong Kingston, author of The Woman Warrior
Jen’s short stories, some collected in the “tender and funny” (The San Francisco Chronicle) collection Who’s Irish, have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and dozens of other periodicals and anthologies; a short spinoff from The Resisters was featured on the cover of the New York Times Week in Review, and a sequel novella is soon to follow courtesy of Audible Originals. She has, what’s more, been published in The Best American Short Stories four times, including in The Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike. In January 2022, she’ll return to the form with her first collection of stories in two decades, Thank You, Mr. Nixon, which explores the lives of everyday citizens in China since the country was opened up.
Jen’s work was featured in a PBS American Masters’ special on the American novel; in 2003, an American Academy of Arts and Letters jury composed of John Updike, Cynthia Ozick, Don DeLillo, and Joyce Carol Oates awarded Jen a five-year Mildred and Harold Strauss Living Award; and she is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. A recipient of Lannan, Fulbright, Radcliffe, Guggenheim, and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, she holds honorary doctorates from Emerson College and Williams College. Jen is a visiting professor at Harvard University.
In her lively and informative talks, Jen explores the experiences, passions, and practices that give rise to her work.here.