At Home with Gish Jen

Mike Harvkey in The Millions:

The characters of Thank You, Mr. Nixon, Gish Jen’s expansive new collection of superconnected short stories, are restless. They leave China for America and return, leave America for China and return, traveling between the two countries and cultures as if through a revolving door. Jen, like the second-generation Americans in her book, understands what it is to be “hybrid,” and the inherent tension that requires her characters to engage in frequent acts of translation—linguistic, cultural, and generational—whether they wish to or not.

Born on Long Island in 1955, Jen says she came of age “at the height of multiculturalism, when I was supposed to be writing about my Chinese roots.” But growing up in Scarsdale, N.Y., she learned more Yiddish than Chinese—an experience she mined for her very funny second novel, 1996’s Mona in the Promised Land, about a Chinese girl converting to Judaism.

More here.