Thank You, Mr. Nixon by Gish Jen
Really enjoyed this collection of interconnected stories which span 50 years of Chinese / American relations. Characters show up in multiple stories at different stages in life. The writing is humorous, biting and concise and the stories raise interesting issues around identity and migration, the push and pull inherent in the relationship of super-powers but all at the human level. It was an enjoyable, easy read, but one I am very much discussing with others. Gish Jen does a masterful job of distilling political issues to what is inherently human.
About Thank You, Mr. Nixon :
Beginning with a cheery, kindly letter penned by a Chinese girl in heaven to “poor Mr. Nixon” in hell, Gish Jen embarks on an eleven-story journey through U.S.-Chinese relations, capturing not only the excitement of a world on the brink of tectonic change, but the all-too-human encounters that ensue as East meets West.
Opal Chen reunites with her sisters in China after a hiatus of almost forty years; American Arnie Hsu clashes with his Chinese girlfriend Lulu Koo, who wonders why Americans “like to walk around in the woods with the mosquitoes”; Tina and Johnson Koo take wholly surprising measures to reestablish contact when their “number one daughter,” Bobby, stops answering her phone in New York; and Betty Koo, brought up on “no politics, just make money,” finds she must square her mother’s philosophy with the repression in Hong Kong.
With their profound compassion, equally profound humor, and unexpected connections, these masterful stories reflect history’s shifting shadow over our boldest decisions and most intimate moments. Gradually accruing the power of a novel as it proceeds, Thank You, Mr. Nixon furnishes yet more proof of Gish Jen’s enduring place among the most eminent of American storytellers.
Disclosure: If you purchase a book through one of these links, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you, which I will donate to literary organizations in Boston and across the country. Thanks!