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Teaching Multicultural Literature : A Workshop for the Middle Grades
Workshop 1 Workshop 2 Workshop 3 Workshop 4 Workshop 5 Workshop 6 Workshop 7 Workshop 8
Workshop 1: Engagement and Dialogue
Overview
Authors and Literary Works
Julia Alverez
Biography
Work
Gish Jen
Biography
Work
Tina Lee
Biography
Work
Khot T. Luu
Biography
Work
James McBride
Biography
Work
Lensey Namioka
Biography
Work
Lensey Namioka
Biography
Work
Key References
Video Summary
Teaching Strategies
Commentary
Student Work
Resources
Interactive Workbook -- Explore two poems using strategies from these workshops. Go.
Channel-Talk -- Share your views on the discussion board. Go.


Photo by: J.D. Sloan
Authors and Literary Works
Biography

Novelist and short story writer Gish Jen, a second-generation Chinese American, grew up in Scarsdale, New York. A Harvard University graduate, she also received an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

The Washington Post called Gish Jen "a sharp and witty observer of the immigrant experience -- of the Chinese Americans that populate her work, certainly, but of immigrants in general."

Her first novel, Typical American, introduced the Changs, young Chinese immigrants who turn themselves into what they once disdained as "typically American." The book was a New York Times notable book of the year and a finalist for the National Book Critics' Circle award. In the sequel, Mona in the Promised Land, the author continued to probe her themes of ethnic identity and cultural identity. "Mona Chang offers a first-person record of her life from 1968, when she is in the eighth grade, to adulthood," observes Kirkus Reviews. "Woven through Mona's often witty narrative of her adolescence, of her struggles both to fit in and to stand apart, of her first hesitant experience of passion, is her determination to live outside both the expectations of her parents and the blithe stereotypes of society." Gish Jen also published a collection of eight short stories titled Who's Irish?: And Other Stories.

"You sort of wonder who really feels unequivocally American," Gish Jen said in an interview with television journalist Bill Moyers. "Many, many people are subject to this feeling of slight estrangement... In my experience, if you claim America, no one will dispute your claim. No one's going to hand it to you, but if you say, 'Well, this is mine,' no one is going to stop you either. And that's been very empowering for me."

The New York Times called The Love Wife, Jen's novel about the Wong family, "a big story: a story about families and identity and race and the American Dream, a story about how one generation deals with the expectations and the hopes of an earlier generation."

Gish Jen's stories have been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Yale Review, and numerous anthologies. "Birthmates" was chosen for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike. Stories such as "What Means Switch" and "The White Umbrella" have appeared in anthologies for young adult readers. Jen has been awarded grants by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Radcliffe Bunting Institute, among other organizations.

back to top Next: Gish Jen: Work


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