Gabriele Annan

  • Who's Irish by Gish Jen
    Granta, 209 pp, £9.99, July 1999, ISBN 1 86207 276 0

Ever since her first novel Typical American appeared in 1991, the Chinese American writer Gish Jen has been acclaimed as the new Amy Tan. Amy Tan herself acclaims her on the cover of Mona in the Promised Land (1996), Jen’s second novel; and again on this collection of short stories. Jen has a lot going for her: she is witty, perceptive, penetrating, sharp on motives and a great mimic. She can do Black American, Jewish American (including the puns) and, of course, Chinese American: ‘When I first come to the United States, I also had to hide-and-seek with those deportation guys. If people did not helping me, I am not here today.’ Jen is affectionate towards her characters and impeccably well-intentioned. And so are nearly all of them, even when they appear to be up to no good. It almost always turns out that someone who has betrayed someone else, or stolen their silver flask, didn’t really do any such thing. Above all else, Gish Jen is charming; immensely charming; charming verging on cute.

The full text of this book review is only available to subscribers of the London Review of Books.

You are not logged in