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Typical American

Typical American

Gish Jen

  • $ 600

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From the beloved author of Mona in the Promised Land and The Love Wife comes this comic masterpiece, an insightful novel of immigrants experiencing the triumphs and trials of American life.

Gish Jen reinvents the American immigrant story through the Chang family, who first come to the United States with no intention of staying. When the Communists assume control of China in 1949, though, Ralph Chang, his sister Theresa, and his wife Helen, find themselves in a crisis. At first, they cling to their old-world ideas of themselves.  But as they begin to dream the American dream of self-invention, they move poignantly and ironically from people who disparage all that is “typical American” to people who might be seen as typically American themselves. With droll humor and a deep empathy for her characters, Gish Jen creates here a superbly engrossing story that resonates with wit and wisdom even as it challenges the reader to reconsider what a typical American might be today.

From Publishers Weekly

Jen's wry but compassionate debut novel--the story of a Chinese student adjusting to life in America--is a nominee for the National Book Critics Circle fiction award. Author tour. 
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Like Amy Tan and Timothy Mo, Jen's delightful first novel follows the hopeful lives of Chinese immigrants with a great deal of humor and sympathy. As foreign students in New York, Ralph Chang, "Older Sister" Teresa, and Ralph's future wife Helen become trapped in the United States when the Communists assume control of China in 1948. Banding together, the three of them innocently plan to achieve the American dream, while retaining their Chinese values. Predictably, just when they appear to have reached their goal, the lures of freedom prove too great. Ralph's greed leads him to sacrifice his family's security to build Ralph's Chicken Palace, while Teresa and Helen find their own passions ignited in illicit ways. Inevitably, the family--the Chinese symbol of unity--suffers more than a few cracks along the way. This is truly "an American story"--a poignant and deftly told tale of immigrants coming to terms with the possibilities of America and with their own limitations, foibles, and the necessity of forgiveness. Sure to be a popular purchase for public and academic libraries. 
- Kathleen Hirooka, Stanford Univ. Libs., Cal. 
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.


“Gish Jen has done much more than tell an immigrant story. . . . She has done it more and in some ways better than it has ever been done before.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review

“The immigrant experience will never be the same. . . . A comedy . . . a tragedy . . . a pure delight.” —The Boston Globe

“An irresistible novel . . . suspenseful, startling, heartrending, without ever losing its comic touch.” —Entertainment Weekly

“No paraphrase could capture the intelligence of Gish Jen’s prose, its epigrammatic sweep and swiftness. . . . The author just keeps coming at you line after stunning line.” —The New York Times Book Review