Gish Jen goes from novels to nonfiction

Peter Cocchia in the Boston Globe:

ScreenHunter_147 Mar. 24 15.20Here in Cambridge’s Neighborhood Nine is your typical American house, a two-story affair in cadet grey; winters have tarnished its wrought-iron fence, the gate of which is fixed open; a flagstone path leads from there to the door. Inside, you’ll find a mixture of old and new: at one end of the kitchen, a squarish black Jotul stove, at the other, a stainless-steel fridge. Then there is Gish Jen.

Standing barefoot in the kitchen, she looks as though she could be only slightly taller than the doorbell out front. Since 1991, she has published four acclaimed novels and a prize-winning collection of short fiction, to say nothing of the fellowships she has held, the grants she has received. In a town filled with literary giants, among them Alice Hoffman, Ha Jin, and Jennifer Haigh, Jen stands tall.

“What’s most unique about Gish’s voice is that it’s humorous,” says Jennifer Ho, associate professor in the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Department of English and author of the forthcoming “Understanding Gish Jen.” “There’s a certain type of witty irony that she employs. She also has a generosity of spirit toward all of her characters, even the ones who aren’t particularly likable.”

In February, Jen made her nonfiction debut with “Tiger Writing,” an accessible work of scholarship that, without expressing a preference, contrasts the Eastern narrative with the Western, the interdependent self with the independent.

More here.