To varying degrees, Gish Jen's writings reflect her experiences growing up in Scarsdale,
New York, a city located just north of New York City. "The biggest influence on my work has come
from Jewish-American writers," Jen says. "It's partly Scarsdale, and partly the sympathy I see
between the Jewish and Chinese cultures."
An American-born daughter (1956- ) of immigrant Chinese parents, Jen remembers her family
feeling the need to fit in--to be absorbed into the main culture. "We were almost the only
Asian-American family in town," she recalls. "People threw things at us and called us names.
We thought it was normal--it was only much later that I realized it had been hard." Jen says
these experiences did not make her childhood unhappy, and she refuses to give them any special
attention. In fact, in Jen's novels Typical American and Mona in the Promised Land,
her wry sense of humor is interwoven with her insights into the Chinese-American experience.