For author Gish Jen, the daughter of Chinese immigrant parents, books were once an Outsiders' Guide to the Universe. But they were something more, too. Through her eclectic childhood reading, Jen stumbled onto a cultural phenomenon that would fuel her writing for decades to come: the profound difference in self-narration that underlies the gap often perceived between East and West.Read more...
For author Gish Jen, the daughter of Chinese immigrant parents, books were once an Outsiders' Guide to the Universe. But they were something more, too. Through her eclectic childhood reading, Jen stumbled onto a cultural phenomenon that would fuel her writing for decades to come: the profound difference in self-narration that underlies the gap often perceived between East and West.
Drawing on a rich array of sources, from paintings to behavioral studies to her father's striking account of his childhood in China, this accessible book not only illuminates Jen's own development and celebrated work but also explores the aesthetic and psychic roots of the independent and interdependent self-each mode of selfhood yielding a distinct way of observing, remembering, and narrating the world. The novel, Jen writes, is fundamentally a Western form that values originality, authenticity, and the truth of individual experience. By contrast, Eastern narrative emphasizes morality, cultural continuity, the everyday, the recurrent. In its progress from a moving evocation of one writer's life to a convincing delineation of the forces that have shaped our experience for millennia, "Tiger Writing" radically shifts the way we understand ourselves and our art-making.
- ISBN-13: 9780674072831
- ISBN-10: 0674072839
- Publisher: Harvard University Press
- Publish Date: March 2013
- Page Count: 201
- Dimensions: 7.2 x 4.7 x 0.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.6 pounds
Series: William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization (Hardcover)
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-12-24
- Reviewer: Staff
In this thoughtful—and often witty—volume, Jen (Typical American) presents three essays that she originally delivered as lectures at Harvard University in 2012. Jen, whose novels often deal with questions of ethnicity and identity, has created a self-described “mix of memoir, cognitive studies, literary analysis, and reflection” that tackles the interplay of culture, writing, and the tension between the Western concept of the “independent, individualistic self,” and the Eastern concept of the “interdependent, collectivist self.” In the first essay, Jen uses her father’s autobiography (written when he was 85) as a lens through which to compare differences between Western and Eastern narratives of the self. The intriguing second essay more broadly addresses both cultures, and includes a fascinating scientific exploration about how the brain perceives and retains memories of events (the basis of the self-narrative), along with one of the book’s more lyrical moments as she discusses the Westchester library of her youth. The third essay focuses on her writing and development as a writer. Meant for an academic audience, there is some thorny jargon, but Jen raises important questions about how we fashion our own stories and how cultural differences influence that process. Jen’s humorous interjections throughout the text give a sense of how warm and engaging her lectures must have been. 22 halftones. Agent: Melanie Jackson Agency. (Mar.)