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Gish Jen

Gish Jen is a novelist and short-story writer. First rising to prominence in the late 1980s, her work often deals with identity, globalization and the American experiment. Ann Beattie notes that Jen’s “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.” With this Cynthia Ozick concurs, saying, “Gish Jen’s characters are so alive that one can hardly call them characters.”

Jen’s most recent work, Tiger Writing: Art, Culture, and the Interdependent Self, is based on the William E. Massey Lectures in the History of American Civilization she gave at Harvard University. The work addresses the profound East-West difference in self and self-narration, with Western stories tending to stress originality, authenticity, and the centrality of individual experience, while non-Western storytelling—including the storytelling of South America, Africa, and Central and Eastern Europe—has tended to stress morality, cultural continuity, the representative, and the everyday. Junot Díaz called the book “penetrating, inspired, and, yes, indispensable.”

Jen is the author of four novels, one collection of short stories, and a volume of lectures. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, and dozens of other periodicals and anthologies, including Best American Short Stories of 1988, 1995, and 2013, as well as Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike. Nominated for a National Book Critics’ Circle Award and winner of a Massachusetts Book Award, her work was featured in a PBS American Masters’ special on the American novel, and is widely taught. Jen was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009. She has been awarded a Lannan Literary Award for Fiction, a Guggenheim fellowship, a Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study fellowship, and a Harold and Mildred Strauss Living from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Other distinctions include a 2015 honorary doctorate from Williams College.

Tiger Writing: Art, Culture, and the Interdependent Self (2012)
World and Town (2010)
The Love Wife (2004)
Who’s Irish? (1999)
Mona in the Promised Land (1996)
Typical American (1991)

Online Resources

Gish Jen’s website
Jen interviewed by The Rumpus