Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Gish Jen uses words and phrases drawn from the Mandarin language, as well as references to geographical features around Shanghai, to convey the Chinese heritage of her characters. Locate examples and consider how they are used.

Jen was displeased when an interviewer asked her why Mona in the Promised Land had “no real Americans in it.” She replied, “You have to think again about what an American is.” How has she guided this thinking?

In her depiction of first-and second-generation Americans, Jen often draws a contrast between what seem like traditional values and modern innovations. What are some of the core values that Jen supports beyond any specific ethnic identity?

One of the most distinctive elements of Jen’s work is its comic qualities. She has said, “If anything, I have sometimes struggled to make my work less funny. My natural facility is to find the laugh.” What are some of the most prominent examples of this tendency, and how do they contribute to the mood of an incident?

Jen describes The Love Wife as a novel “as if told by the various Wongs at a very long family therapy session.” How does she make each separate “voice” distinct and unique, belonging to and illuminating a particular character?