Who's Irish? Questions and Answers
by Gish Jen

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Consider Sophie’s future as an adult in today’s America. Both her mother and her grandmother (the narrator) believe they know the best “formula” to prepare Sophie for success. We know the grandmother’s views, but we can only make assumptions about the mother’s views. Based on evidence from the story, what do you think the mother wants Sophie to learn? More importantly, why?

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Based on evidence from the short story “Who’s Irish?”, Natalie appears to want her daughter Sophie to learn to be a free-thinker who grows up to be a confident adult, not a meek, obedient, and tradition-bound woman.

Natalie is vice president at a bank who supports her underemployed and depressed Irish husband John, her Chinese immigrant mother, and her daughter Sophie in a large house. Always seemingly busy with work—constantly writing memos and preparing presentations—she asks her mother to care for Sophie after their babysitter quits. Not wanting to insult John’s masculinity, Natalie has her mother watch Sophie instead because “he is a man” and needs to work out at the gym and feel supported. When John does finally get a job, Natalie buys him candy bars from a health food store with the word “Think!” printed on them to offer encouragement. During—and as a result of—her own...

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