When the Melting Pot Boils Over

The title of Gish Jen's witty 1999 collection of short stories was Who's Irish?but the theme, as it has always been in Jen's work, was "who's American?" It's never been a question with a simple answer. Her Chinese immigrants and their children are neither apple-pie success stories nor tragic victims of American assimilation. In Jen's world Chinese parents open up a restaurant, make money, move to the suburbs, argue in Shanghainese, then find their youngest daughter wants to be Jewish and ditch Mandarin lessons for Hebrew. There's no melting pot to be seen in this immigrant experience, boiling everyone down to...

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