In critically acclaimed novels such as “Mona in the Promised Land” and “World and Town,” Gish Jen explores the sense of being between two worlds that the children of immigrants often experience. Jen looks directly at how that feeling has shaped her work in “Tiger Writing: Art, Culture, and the Interdependent Self” (Harvard Univ., $18.95), first delivered as last year’s Massey Lectures at Harvard.
You embarked on writing this book because there was “something in your bones” you hadn’t figured out yet. What was that?
I had felt for a long time that there was something about literary culture that was slightly foreign to me. Not long ago, I went to an East-West writers conference, where a young Chinese writer said that she wrote because she didn’t like to go out, and she thought that by writing novels, she could stay at home and make money. I laughed, and everybody laughed, and then I thought, “That’s such a typical thing for a Chinese person to say. In the West, we’d never say that.”