Tiger Writing: Art, Culture, and the Interdependent Selfby Gish Jen
Drawing on a rich array of sources, including her father’s striking account of his childhood in China, Tiger Writing not only illuminates Gish Jen’s work but 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.See more details below
Drawing on a rich array of sources, including her father’s striking account of his childhood in China, Tiger Writing not only illuminates Gish Jen’s work but 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.
- Publication date:
- The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization, #2012
- Sales rank:
- Product dimensions:
- 4.50(w) x 7.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Read an Excerpt
Lecture 1: My Father Writes His Story
In 2005, when he was 85, my father sat down to write a personal narrative. This begins simply: “It is few days before my 86th birthday. I am writing my personal history for my family.” As for what follows, it is not elaborate. And written over the period of a month, and totaling 32 pages, it does not begin à la David Copperfield with “I was born”; in what we will come to recognize as true interdependent style, my father does not, in fact, mention his birth at all. We do not hear how much he weighed or whether he peed on the nurse or anything of the “the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously” sort. In fact, he does not even give his birth date until page 8, when he includes “Norman Chao-Pe Jen, June 26, 1919” in parentheses.
Instead he begins: “(1) Ancient History,” drawing his information from his family genealogy book. This is an item those of you who have read my novel, The Love Wife, may recognize as the bait with which Carnegie Wong’s mother, Mama Wong, gets Carnegie to take in a woman who appears to be a second wife. It is the sort of genealogical record that was traditionally kept by any family who could afford to do so, and was of course always prized – but never more so than now, what with every book that survived the Cultural Revolution having done so by a miracle. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s family genealogy book, for example, long hidden inside a wall, was found during a home renovation; and my mother’s was found when Shanghai families whose things had been confiscated during the Cultural Revolution were allowed inside a warehouse with the idea that if you could find what was taken from you, you could reclaim it. I don’t think you have to be a novelist to imagine the piles of stuff, and the crowds and the chaos, and the despair with which people like my aunts pored through the heaps. Finally, though, my youngest aunt simply stopped and, closing her eyes, prayed to our ancestors to help; and when she opened her eyes and turned around, there, right at eye level, was the family genealogy book.
My father’s family was less lucky; the physical book itself did not survive. A copy of it, though, did, thanks to the Japanese, who for reasons perhaps related to their use of the Jen family compound as their regional headquarters during their occupation of China, preserved one in a Japanese library.
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