Gish Jen’s clever, humorous, and poignant short story “Who’s Irish?” is narrated by a sixty-eight-year-old Chinese immigrant grandmother living in the United States. She is widowed and has only one child, a daughter named Natalie. Natalie is twenty-eight and married an American of Irish descent, John Shea. They have a three-year-old daughter named Sophie. The narrator comes from a culture and generation that is, in many ways, different from modern America.
From the point of view of the narrator, we are able to see the absurdities of cultural norms we take for granted. This story provides the perspective of someone whose native culture values certain traits and behaviors differently to how they are valued in the US. For example, the narrator says that in Chinese, there is no such word as “supportive,” and that the word “creative” is rarely used. These concepts reflect to her an indulgent American social attitude.
“Who’s Irish?” allows the reader to step away from...
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