Harvard Book Store; WGBH Forum Network; Gish Jen: World and Town
Go ahead and get started. Good evening my name is Mike and we have our bookstore I want to thank you all for coming and welcome you to tonight's event with Gish Jen. Before we get started I do I mentioned just a few of the bookstores upcoming events. Tomorrow night David Kessler will discuss his book The End of Overeating Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. That event will be in the store at 7:00 it is free this Wednesday night Julia Glass will read from her new novel the widower's tale that reading was to be in store 7 and again that is free and we have tickets on sale for some great upcoming events with Patti lipo Nicole Krauss Charles Burns PSNI Paul Oliver Sacks Paul Auster and panel discussions for this year's Best American Short Stories and best American Essays. More information on these and other coming Harvard Book Store events can be found in our October events flyer you can always go online to Harvard dot com for full listings. I would ask everyone to take a moment to turn off or silence your cell phones if you have those with you. Tonight I'm very excited to welcome Gish Jen to Harvard bookstore to celebrate the publication of her
newest novel town and Star World in town. Ms Jann is the author of three previous novels and a short story collection. Her writings appeared in The New Yorker the Atlantic New York Times and elsewhere and has been included in numerous anthologies including the Best American Short Stories of the century. She has received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and the national down for the Arts. And she has won the land an award and a Mildred and Carol Strauss living award and actually world in town is an officially published until tomorrow so this is sort of like a special sneak preview event so you're all very lucky people. World in town tells a story of how the Kong who has moved to the small town of river lake following the deaths of her husband and her closest friend has had to learn to live with her dual grief she requests yourself with a former lover and becomes involved in the affairs of a Cambodian family who have come to river lake to escape troubles in their past. Publisher's Weekly called the novel an expansive story of identity and acceptance told an unique dense and enthralling prose and book list called World in town sharply funny and wisely
compassionate. We'll follow Ms Jones was reading with a question answer session will end with the book signing right here at this table. Copies of world in town may be purchased up at the registers. I do ask that you person a copy before having it signed as they try to get asylum form going to my left. Some of your rights. And as always I thank those of you who do Percy books and I by doing so you're supporting this local independent bookstore and the SOF series making it possible for her books ordering wonderful authors like Christian to you so join me welcome here to the podium ATM. It's wonderful to be here. I see so many of you here I feel like if it feels like a wedding to be honest. You know people back there their seats up front when it has come and said it's really fine. As many of you know I have debuted all five of my books right here at Harvard bookstore. It's always a very special moment to stand here and see you all
especially since so many of this and so many of you have contributed so substantially to the book. I think you know you are especially happy to see entropy and to be on here with Winston. Yeah. I've been thinking recently about the word headwaters. You know if you guys have ever thought as much about that but I had the good fortune a couple years ago to be in the Rockies and to see it to be there at the moment where you know you're standing by a completely dry you know mountain slope and then you look up and all of a sudden there's water you know you're not even really aware of the glacier starting to melt. And it happens very very fast actually you know it's not and it's not a trickle I mean it's a trickle for about a nanosecond and then it's a torrent. And of course I think every writer having spares like that would think about you know it's hard not to think about your own headwaters and just as a nature most of the headwaters are you know are unwitnessed we don't see them. We don't know where they are. But every now and then you know you do know. And
in the case of my new book I will say that. That there are there's a lot about graves in this book like grave cemeteries drink picking people up repairing them happily. But I'm sure that I would not have written anywhere near so much about Graves had I not had the experience a couple of years ago of having my own grandmother disinterred and moved. She was buried in Taiwan and my aunt was was leaving Taiwan and and I was worried that there'd be nobody there to continue to sweep her grave. And so she just ensured my grandmother had her cremated and was going to have her re buried at the location of her choice in Shanghai. My father sent me to Shanghai to go stop her. It's quite an experience. And I think we've all had this going though of living in one reality and suddenly being you know
yank to straying to this other reality. And I think it's not surprising that you know that my protagonist you know is Haddi Kong is also similarly suddenly pulled she is sixty eight She's a Chinese immigrant and the time of the book she she's a person who has come to the United States in the 40s as a teenager but in truth when she comes she's really already half American in that her mother is American missionary at worse a father had been it's the descendants of Confucius as a descendant of Confucius he was entitled to be buried in the completion graveyard which is a very amazing graveyard in chief who in China there 2000 years of Combs buried there. And I think it says a lot about the people of the 20th century that that Harry's father is not buried there. And the case on how does the form of these strings pulling on her takes the form of these e-mails that she's getting from her
relatives who would like to see. This relative moved This is from her. Her niece Tina in Hong Kong. We write you because of our daughter Bobbie. You remember her. Number one went to Andover that MIT the Harvard Business School got a nice job on Wall Street. But now all of a sudden she quit that job to live with a drummer. And on top of it try to sell the apartment we give her. Very nice place. Upper East Side have drama in everything she do not care. All she think about is drum something. We worry she is our number one daughter how can this happen to our family. We analyze in particular Johnson Johnson quite well-known for his analysis but in the end there's only one thing we can guess. Only we can guess at the grave of grandpa and grandma. Not a suspicious the story we always hear is about how Grandma and Grandpa were not very into food as they like to be hogwash things Haddie. Instead because
they died in Taiwan first uncle. That's her brother. Bury them in Taiwan. And then when he himself leaving Taiwan no one left to sweep the grave. He have to move them somewhere again. Min then still clothes cannot bury them there. So he say OK how about Iowa. That's where that's where our head is mother's from. Never mind that grandpa never visited Iowa once in his life. First uncle say at least there go to Iowa together. And of course when the bone picker open the grave looks like the bones are dry. That's true. So first uncle say you see it the functionally no good bones are not dry even many years later he say I pick a good place the first time. Now I pick another good place. You say Iowa is good. But now the Iowa function not so good as before and after a family face difficulty again. We'd be here this shopping center movin right next to our grandparents. And that is why our family our luck not so good. Everything leaking away
not just our branch. Many other cousins say it too. Some of them are lose money a lot of money. So now we're thinking how do you feel about it Grandma and Grandpa should be moved to true food which is their real home. We believe they're lonely in Iowa. No one can sweep graves there. Of course we understand there's some question whether Grandma can stay in the graveyard and chew food too. But we feel confident someone can arrange it. Really you just have to find out where you should pay. After all GRANDPA IS STILL have the name comb and who can even see grandma is a foreign devil anymore. Now she is not even bones only some ashes and pieces something like that. And by the way I do not think I'm fuchsias ever said a big nose cannot be buried in the family leave yard. You never even thought about that case. Probably he does not even know nose can get so big. Everyone say American people do not take care of their parents grave just let the reeds go all over. Their thinking is different. You know better than anyone the
kind of clothes they wear. They think that is normal anyway. We have been talking to some other family member. Everyone agree our family. Something wrong for fallen leaves should return to their roots right. We should do something. But what do you think. What is how do you think. If you are near Ridge you will turn red. If you're near black you will turn black. Who knows but that if she had grown up in Hong Kong she would be a superstitious nut to as it is she just writes that she's sorry but moving the grays is not an option. You know would you like to come in and sit down there like all the seats here as you please. Another poll on how he is our peace. These these neighbors her new neighbors who are Cambodian Americans and there's a
lot of us novel about the weight of the past and certainly that's true of her neighbors who come to this little New England town to start over. They have a lot to start over from you know they are survivors of Pol Pot and of the refugee camps and more recently they have been living and living in a town very like Lowell. And the son had been involved with gangs the daughter had ended up in a foster home. And so they're all there they are trying to start a new. And of course it's also true of Haddie as you may gather from the introduction she's also trying to start over. Her husband Joe and her best friend Lee have very se died of cancer and. Well here she is. There are lot of voices in this book also the section is told in so peace on point so peace point of view and. And she's talking about you know how her family ended up in this place. You should know that her mother and her father when they were in Cambodia were not married to each other but
actually her mother was married to her by her. Now her present father's brother her uncle but he died. But anyway after a while all that was left of the family were so peace mom and dad saw Roone of course her mom was not her mom yet and she didn't know that soapies dad who wasn't her dad yet was still alive and he didn't know that she wasn't or she was alive either. So they were like so happy to find each other in the refugee camp because there they were looking for the same people and crying over the same people. And because she was a woman she had a food ration. She could share with him. And once he got stronger he could protect her from the Thai robbers and do a lot of other brave stuff besides like he would sneak out of the lamp and go to the Thai villages and come back with rice rolling up into a piece of cloth so it was like a tube and he would like tie that to his body and run run run past the Thai soldiers. And then he would sneak back into the camp and sell the rice so he was like a hero. You can sit down Glenda.
And then he and Sophie's mom found several but nobody left to take care of him. Like there he was all by himself. This baby titling around with all the other orphans soapies dad probably wouldn't even notice and realize that the kid was his sister's son except that he had the scar on his cheek like a bullet hole. And then even though soapies dad had barely seen his father for a long time he remembered hearing about that scar and how his sister had said her baby must have been a soldier in his last life. And then it turned out that so peace mom had heard about the scar to the she had never seen the baby either because he was born during the fighting. And she agreed it was like their fate to find the baby and save him. So she answered peace Dad rescue said rune and fed him rice so he wasn't starving anymore and got him medicine so he wasn't sick anymore. And after that they stuck together the three of them because no one else was crying for their family members and before they found each other they were completely alone in the world and couldn't even cry. That's what soapies
mom always says. She says she couldn't even cry until she saw soapies dad a familiar face. And then when she cried she cried so much that when she stopped crying she couldn't see for a long time. Until soapies dad told her that he had found her own. And then she tried to see him and then she did. And now they have to stick together because they're all that's left and because it's too complicated to explain to people how soapies mom couldn't see for a while or why she never really married soapies dad or why soapy and her sisters call soon their brother when he isn't their brother. Like who even knows if there are names for what they are or for their kind of family like what do you call a person who's like twins. Someone who isn't there so he doesn't think her dad will ever really accept that her mom lived instead of her his first wife. It's like so P's mom lived by mistake so that everywhere she goes to somewhere his real life wife isn't going and everything she does is something his real wife isn't doing and so he's dad also lit by mistake because he was the educated one. Guys like
the organization is running the country was he was the educated one onco was trying to kill. The only reason he lived was that messed up and killed the wrong brother so that even though so peace Dad didn't die he sort of got reborn anyway as his brother into his brother's life and everything he does is something his brother isn't doing except that he is sort of doing it depending on how you look at it. It's all like really whack. Now dad or no soapies dad is old and has diabetes which isn't so bad yet but is going to get worse unless he watches out like he should not eat so much white rice as soapy knows because she went with him to the health clinic in their old town and the doctor blitz Min said to tell him about white rice it was really important so she did. She told her dad about how white rice will turn right into sugar and how that's bad for diabetes and she told him that he should eat brown rice instead because brown rice does not turn into sugar right away. And that's like good for diabetes. Of course even though she
was supposed to be translating the hard parts of what the doctor said she said a lot of the words in English because she speaks to my the way he speaks English meaning barely. And anyway who even knows if they exist in Kamaishi words like simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates like even if she knew those words income might there would still be in English. And she told him that he should think about her for a while and then look in a mirror and then decide what to eat. Because once he told that that was what it meant to be Cambodian. Like being Cambodian meant everyone living together and not killing things but it was also not reacting to things like if someone does something to them he used to say they should consider that thing they should ask why did the person do that thing and what did they do that this person has done this thing. They should ask that he used to say and then they should look in a mirror and only after thinking about it for a long time should they decide if they should do something used to lean forward with his legs apart and shake his head finger in the air at him as at
them as he said that and then sort of scoop his finger quick to the side as if he was lobbing off the head of somebody saying the wrong answer. You shouldnt just react he would say Lop. You should think Lop. You should think so now she asked him if you would please think about what he eats the way he thinks about what to do. Like she asked him if you would please ask himself why the doctor said those words. Simple carbohydrates complex carbohydrates and like she asked in the very most polite way with her head down and a soft voice using sweet words. She was a like all year Priam. And close enough. And she like use the respectful voiced form of EAT IN did not call him. Oh but and he did. But he just said he did not like brown rice is expensive he explained in
can my. She nodded. It doesn't taste like Rice explained. She nodded. Cambodians he said eat white rice. And that was it. Lot he went on eating white rice two bowls with every meal. And there was nothing that she could do about it. Going to read you two more store sections. There's a lot in this book as you may gather about language and what we have words for and all the unseen unspoken things all realities for which we do not have words. And the past the past the past. Another thing that you know you guys can come to know me Piers. Please come sit on. And you know you can come to sit even if I don't know your name. I feel like I have to shame people into coming in sitting down.
Another thing which comes another. Another thing which which comes to Poland Haddie is an old relationship she had with a guy who she's known since she came to the United States she lived with this family when they kind of grew up together and they also worked together as research scientists for a while. His name is Carter hatch and they do a lot of speaking to each other without speaking to each other. Why don't we have three eyes Carter would wonder sometimes on the phone. Why should we be bilateral. Because our ancestors were bilateral or why can't we see behind us or why can't we see infrared or why can't we echolocate to what you would reply. Some things are not given to us. Then he would pause and Will had he would have to admit that there were whole years when she more or
less lived for those moments of saying nothing. Even after she married Joe and had Josh she still heard them as Joe knew. Of course she had no secrets from Joe. And mostly he would just hold her tighter than wrapping her in his long arms and kissing her face in a circle. Sometimes though he would go out for a walk with the dogs and once when he asked her what he she heard when they made love and she didn't answer. He went on to ask her what she saw and who. And when she didn't answer that either he went and slept on the couch for a week. Even when he was sick he would ask her groggy his voice raspy from the breathing tube. He would ask are you going to look up car to hatch when I'm good. Never mind that she hadn't seen Carter for three decades by then. The sicker Joe got the angrier he got. Not unlike a child separating from his parents had he thought she understood. And yet still it was hard to hear because I and she would tell him as he slept. Please give me a
kindness to remember not this. But he could only give what he had. You should have married Carter he'd say Why didn't you marry Carter. As if she could have married Carter when had he was too old for Carter and had he was too short for Carter. When harry was impossible when she didn't see where he was coming from when she didn't see where others were coming from when she didn't see how things worked. What the world was don't you see. Carter would say don't you see. There was a Nobel laureate next door to the hatchery that's their lab. Had he was not nice to him because of his prize. Neither was he nice to his minions when they treated students the way that they had been treated. You forget that you yourself will only be a minion as you put it for a while Carter said. Do not over invest in this cause and not every grievance is founded you know. What's your evidence. And you identify too much with the trod upon. It's an outsider's outlook. But she could not help seeing
what she saw. People treated as expendable. They make themselves part of the picture. They get airbrushed out she said. Carter shrugged. This is a lab not an experiment in living. You sound like a honcho. That's his father. I don't care who I sound like I mean you not learn not to care either. There are different ideas about integrity. She believed something in the person he believed something in the work. Not that there weren't lines you couldn't cross. There were absolutely still he thought it important to know where you had leeway. He thought it better to be effective than noble. You're like Meredith he said once. That's his ex-wife more interested in how the world judges you than him what it becomes. And it's a kind of vanity. And once you're not on trial interesting she said it's important to know your position from yourself. He said yes it was Confucius enough. She was in his trailer she was in training in his lab for now he would say when the day came for her
to go she should go. And they hoped if they play their cards right maybe come back as an equal someday if not to the university that leads to the region. We have to be able to have lunch she said several times you must agree to be sure of that. And of course she would promise though she would not have taken either his word or hers too seriously had he not hesitated over his promise in Peter one day and added thoughtfully and liberally. I'll help you if you remember you mean she laughed. But he didn't reach for a carrot stick as she thought that he would. Instead he looked her square in the eyes and said gently. I'm going to do everything I can. And when she laughed again he said Haddie. And don't laugh. To which she said I'm just trying not to cry Carter. And when he put his sandwich down and wiped his hand and took her hand for a moment she accepted it and when she got an offer in a far off lab she said that too. And when a job opened up in his department he let her know right away. This is just
right he said. You go away and then you come back perfect. Of course it's not perfect. And this one last section. There you can see you can see. You could speak the same language and not speak to each other at all the converse is also true. You don't have to speak the same language to understand each other perfectly. And this is Hattie teaching English to the mother the Cambodian American family was mom. And you should know that the white van has been coming for several on the older boy and the band is full of his former the these gang members that they would try to get away from. And soapy also has been going off in a blue car. Tie. Says mom t says HAD A Yes I would love some tea. Mom feels a white enamel sauce pan with water and office had some dried anchovies. Thank you. Delicious
has always loved little fish. Salty sweet things too. Thank you she says again. Mom's head bobs. You should say you're welcome mama Tris. You're welcome. Had he says again you're welcome. How does mother may have been a heretic but when had he was a girl. Her English lessons were based on the Bible. She can still see your old green primer with the cross on its cover. All those bearded foreign devils with helmets on too. Still it was a textbook mom should probably have a textbook for now had he simply runs to the vowel Snowden problems. Can you say Baby B. Says mom. A bit of tweaking there trouble the ending consonant had he goes on can you say bet. Good Can you save beat. B had a makes a no bet. The next lesson how do you want some pronunciation again. But add some phrases. Thank
you. Thanks. How are you. The sounds are hard for mom but she smiles the whole time tentative but eager. Learning English at her age is not easy. She might as well be trying to tuck MT tie under her arm and jump over the Red Sea as had his father used to say. Still she reminds Harry of how students make the teacher. Mom is such a different student from SO P.. But then her students were all different she remembers and how each one gave her a piece of herself. She remembers that too. She looks forward to coming again. The third lesson gift is awaken hurling things. Having just discovered that he can walk and as a baby and throw things at the same time he picks up the remote control and throws it. Next a bottle opener next a bunch of keys in there he shouts met his chest a streak of drool. His face bright with naughty delight still.
Mom calmly sets out a dish of dried mango leaving it to Chung to make a loud scary noises. He leans forward raising a threatening hand but gift just reaches just laughs and reaches for a porcelain basket. Mom frowns. Do you want to meet another time Harry asks chunk shouts Get goes running out of the room his diaper hanging off. Mom leans forward to comment on all this heavy things but know why. She says instead cause he thinks the white car is a back friend. Mom says she closes her eyes. Shaking her head. You're worried about sort of his friends worry she says clearly a word she knows he's upsetting her husband. Nods pensive. She presses hard between her eyes with her thumbs her other fingers spread eagled then let her hands fall to the chaebol child.
Child me. Yes I have a son. Hear hear. No says Hetty. He lives far away far far away. Gone. Gone. Yes he's gone. Mom's takes us in. Her face is smooth as a girl's but her glance is a mother's glance appraising and thoughtful. She has brilliant dark eyes was wonderfully clear why it's child gone she says no. She hesitates. Stay stay says Mom. No stay to children stay in Cambodia. Mom nods. It's hard here you're right. The children don't stay. Mud fodder mom stops Yes mother father are alone here. The children don't stay had he speaks clearly and slowly. The children go you self. Do I live by
myself. Yes mom shakes her head hard. Yes it's hard. Quiet headed continue speak clearly slowly. You do everything yourself. Decide everything yourself. Eat by yourself. She smiles a little though she could see it would be all right if she didn't. Some people like it but I find it hard hard. Mom says again sympathetically. So Aaron why Cox So Ron is getting in the white car SO P. So P.S. through ka SO P. is getting in the blue car. Mom shakes her head. It's hard when he doesn't know what else to say. I'm sorry. They should really work some more before before gift comes back and has a lesson book for mom and her bag.
She should get it out. But instead they just sit a moment two women at the same table. It's quiet. I think I'll stop there. Thank you thank you. I'd be happy to take questions if you have any. Now I was going to ask me if it's autobiographical. Yes that's a good question. Yeah. You know in the voice they kick the comes together for me. You know I mean so it's kind and often the the voice is a clue to what who the character is you know so. So yeah. Or maybe I will say also that you know sometimes you know you have quite a range of characters you know like you know it's
situation like this there are a lot of people. And the question is Who should you actually focus on because you can't you know in the end make some choices. And often the voices that come soonest easiest most strongly you know you know there's something about about that character that they were sort of a worthy of more attention. So they make themselves known I guess. Yes. Yeah well I try not to do anything else but with the world being what it is it's you know you want to sent on errands to Shanghai you know people have you know literary and literary histories that of course they need entries from you know people have you know for many there are many things which you know I mean which press upon you and which is you would like to say no. You find that you are able to say no.
And so it's always a struggle. I think anybody I know there are other writers in the audience. You know because it's like a dream you know it's you know you're always afraid if you're interrupted that you know you won't be able to get back into the dream. So it's a little you know you really don't want to be interrupted in truth. And in truth I do a lot of my work up in Vermont for just that reason because because all I can be interrupted there too it's harder for people than drop me. But but a lot of there I mean there are parts of the work which you know you can easily you know you can pick up you know the editing and so on you can pick that up and put it down. But I think a lot of the rough draft stuff you know you just need to be very quiet. Yes. Well you know a lot of it was just it was just serendipitous in the sense that I had been to Lowell to read a couple of times you know they just invited me I always thought up an interesting community I'd love
to spend some more time here. And then what happened is that I was out how weaned on Halloween trick or treating with them with Lisa through create greater you know which is just just the mother of one of I'm sorry one of my my one of my daughter's friends mother and and we were walking around and I don't know how the subject came up and it turned out that she had done a lot of work in Lowell and in particular that she knew the juvenile justice General Court justice he was supposed to be here tonight I was hoping you would make it. And she said well I bet he wouldn't mind if you sat in. So I thought oh great you know I'm sort of between books I'm looking for something new you know and I went I sat in his court and as soon as I was there I knew there was something. First of all you know I think at that time look who's here tonight my son was about 14 I'm sorry they don't look at him very mad at me. But but you know he was a 14 and I walked into
this courtroom and here are these kids who looked a lot like my son you know with the black hair and you know they're in handcuffs you know at 14 and I said oh my god they're 20 minutes away and these kids are in such a different reality you know and then I went out to lunch with the judge and you know he told me the story he said you know he you know he was talking about you know some of the parents and he said he said you know he's trying to you know get them to be more involved and so on but there's a lot of parents just sort of said you know good we don't want to you know to basically lock him up. And I there which is an attitude I recognized I recognize that you know I was measuring this the other day and she points out that it's not only is that only Asian people who have this attitude as you know many old world. People you know have attitudes like that. But anyway but I don't recognize that. And and I think out of that sort of point of sympathy you know grew this enormous narrative. I loved doing the research I will say I you know I mean I found the people in Lowell just unbelievably welcoming and
open. And so that's a lot of it too was just that you know there's a sense that. It was it was just it was it wanted to be told. That makes sense the story wanted to be told which is not so much I mean of course there been a lot written about Pol Pot and so on you know there are many many many accounts but I think that there are not so many accounts about this community in there its means is the United States is there. Yeah. Yeah. You know its a long time ago I'm not sure. You know I don't know. You know because I love that book you know I was sitting down to write in 1986. So I it's hard for me to say. I think maybe you know I think about sort of the voices and you know
I think that in the book you know there's not more of a narrator and I think it seems that over the years I'm a more comfortable kind of business. I mean of course you know everyone you know people tend to identify you with one of the voices in your book but in truth none of them none of them is me. And and I think that you know there is a way in. Yes I've gone older you know I don't really I don't you know I don't feel any need to have my choice of the book that this name makes sense. So I guess it is a different kind of dreaming. You know Lindsay. 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0. Oh.
You just go hard water. Well it's interesting you should say that because I think that I have in the past been self conscious about making smart characters. You know what I think that I think that this and some people are like the opposite you know they want they want to kind of show off as smart. So you know their characters are correspondingly you know kind of show off. Maybe I have less to show off to begin with. But I think that you know my characters have tended to be kind A little guys and you know not so intellectual and. Yeah. Yeah I mean kind of ordinary people and I think it's really I think maybe
you know correct me if I'm wrong but I think it's really with this book that you know I've dispersed and I really have like kind of an intellectual my book and I will say he doesn't come off too well. Everybody says. So I really like this one I really like that one. I said well what about corner actors Oh my God what a jerk. So you know I'm writing from life. Yes. Yeah I have heard a lot of stories over the years I'm always kind of amazed you know you're right you're right these books you're in a little bubble you did some level you don't really think anyone will ever read them much less that they will take them to heart. But you have princes with you know with who is I where someone came up to me in New York and she said that her mother
was Chinese immigrant could not read English she could speak what she can read was learning to read. And she said that she had read who's Irish to her mother and that was the book she put on her on it on her table. And that was the that was the book that she was going to read when she could read English. And you know I you know I thought OK OK. Yeah you know there been a lot of people come up to me and you know not necessarily Asian American you know other immigrants to you will sort of you know come up to me and tell me they've been marked by book a lot. But in the other questions when I was called anything thank you so much for coming.
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- Award-winning novelist Gish Jen discusses her novel, "World and Town". Hattie Kong--the spirited offspring of a descendant of Confucius and an American missionary to China--has, in her fiftieth year of living in the United States, lost both her husband and her best friend to cancer. It is an utterly devastating loss, of course, and also heartbreakingly absurd: a little, she thinks, "like having twins. She got to book the same church with the same pianist for both funerals and did think she should have gotten some sort of twofer from the crematorium."But now, two years later, it is time for Hattie to start over. She moves to the town of Riverlake, where she is soon joined by an immigrant Cambodian family on the run from their inner-city troubles, as well as--quite unexpectedly--by a just-retired neuroscientist ex-lover named Carter Hatch. All of them are, like Hattie, looking for a new start in a town that might once have represented the rock-solid base of American life but that is itself challenged, in 2001, by cell-phone towers and chain stores, struggling family farms and fundamentalist Christians.
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- This item is part of the Chinese Americans section of the AAPI special collection.
- Literature & Philosophy; Culture & Identity
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Writer: Jen, Gish
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Identifier: 58d70be2b50fe6e8f9a6808f4a76c939b1d47d6a (ArtesiaDAM UOI_ID)
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- Chicago: “Harvard Book Store; WGBH Forum Network; Gish Jen: World and Town,” 2010-10-04, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 10, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-bn9x05xd33.
- MLA: “Harvard Book Store; WGBH Forum Network; Gish Jen: World and Town.” 2010-10-04. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 10, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-bn9x05xd33>.
- APA: Harvard Book Store; WGBH Forum Network; Gish Jen: World and Town. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-bn9x05xd33