Tiger Writing: Art, Culture, and the Interdependent Self
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.
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About the Author
In a magnificent feat of integration, Tiger Writing honors the becoming of the Chinese American writer. I am proud, proud, proud to share ancestors-and the novel and the world-with Gish Jen. Oh, and the wonderful faith-that the novel can be learned!--Maxine Hong Kingston, author of To Be the Poet
Blending family memoir, cultural criticism, and reflections on her own life as a writer, Gish Jen makes a compelling case for the novel as a meeting-ground of typically American themes of independence with classically Asian ideals of interdependence. Tiger Writing is a rare case of a book on writing that itself is a joy to read.--David Damrosch, author of What Is World Literature?
How to balance the competing claims of social order and self-determination? It's a question that all novelists must grapple with, and Jen, drawing on extensive research in the social sciences as well as her own vividly-rendered biography, gives us an entirely new answer. The result is a strikingly original--and compellingly personal--account of the novel as a genre.--Amanda Claybaugh, Harvard University
Tiger Writing is both precise and intimate, a terrific contribution to our understanding of the artist's lot in the East and in the West.--Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story
Tiger Writing is a remarkable achievement on account of its sobriety and unique perception of difference between what Gish Jen considers as the West and Asian narratives...Her sensitivity to her own roots and the transparency with which she focuses on these textures is what makes Tiger Writing remarkably interesting...Gish Jen's translucency as a novelist with an astute critical sense is that which leads us through the pages of this extremely interesting narrative. Tiger Writing is thus at once a text of critical exploration and a manifesto.--Murali Sivaramakrishnan "The Hindu" (3/11/2013 12:00:00 AM)
These pieces are as entertaining as they are insightful. Jen's readers will undoubtedly love them, and those new to her work should consider them as well.--Mark Manivong "Library Journal" (2/15/2013 12:00:00 AM)
[A] thoughtful--and often witty--volume...Jen raises important questions about how we fashion our own stories and how cultural differences influence that process.-- "Publishers Weekly" (12/24/2012 12:00:00 AM)
Probing, precise, and extremely thought-provoking, this is a small volume about big ideas.--Kate Tuttle "Boston Globe" (3/28/2013 12:00:00 AM)
Gish Jen's elegant and wide-ranging Tiger Writing...explores the differences between Eastern and Western ideas of the self in fiction and culture, and why they matter...Tiger Writing is physically beautiful--printed on ivory paper with photos throughout, intimate in the hand and a pleasure to touch and hold. It seems fitting that a book about writing, connection and culture provides such a full sensory experience. It is a perfect metaphor for its contents.--Jeanette Zwart "Shelf Awareness (starred review)" (4/30/2013 12:00:00 AM)
Jen weaves together examples of the interdependent views that influenced her and how she came to be a novelist--an independent thing. She addresses the notion of culture with a small c and a capital C. In addition, she discusses the blurring of inter/independence in negotiating narrative and life. The notes following the lectures are well worth reading for their nuggets of information.
--M. L. Jackson "Choice" (8/1/2013 12:00:00 AM)