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WHAT MEANS SWITCH? By GISH JEN

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by

Gerard Noipann

on 19 November 2015

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Transcript of WHAT MEANS SWITCH? By GISH JEN

WHAT MEANS SWITCH? By GISH JEN
"Everyone wants the world to cohere in some meaningful fashion. For people growing up, as I did, between cultures, though, that desire can burn in a way particularly well suited for fiction. Faulkner once said that fiction is about the “human heart in conflict with itself.”I grew up with just such a heart."
Discussion
When people drive into the Chang's front lawn and ask to use the telephone, Mrs. Chang says "'Of course,'...like it's no big deal, we can replant. We're the type to adjust". What does "adjust" mean?

GISH JEN
Born Lillian Jen on August 12, 1955 in Long Island, NY to Chinese immigrants
"It means that I write about but also out of the immigrant experience.Igrew up, not just with a desire to tell my own story, or my family’s story, but fascinated in general by culture and cultural change – by ways of seeing and speaking, and not seeing and not speaking, by family making and unmaking."
"I’m fascinated by individualism – what the psychologists call independence — and by its opposite, collectivism, which the psychologists call interdependence.
I’m fascinated by the different selves we can have, sometimes at the same time

individualistic selves that value the truth within, and collectivist selves that derive meaning from belonging, and service to a higher cause
."
"It’s one of the gifts of being an Asian American female. I was brought up to listen to other people’s voices more than to my own, to intuit their moods and feelings, to see things from their perspective."
Notable Works
Typical American (1991)
Tiger Writing: Art, Culture, and the Interdependent Self
World and Town
Who's Irish?
The Love Wife
Mona in the Promised Land (1996)
Theme/Issues
Her short stories have appeared in the Yale Review, The Atlantic Monthly and the New Yorker
Grew up in Scarsdale and Yonkers, NY
BA from Harvard-> Stanford-> Iowa Writers' Workshop
Culture
Identity:
Cultural Differences
Conformity
Adapting/Adjusting
Upbringing
Cultural Heritage
Puberty/Adolescence/Growing Up
How does "adjustment" position characters or groups in relation to each other? How does it structure the dynamics between characters or groups?
How is it similar to or different from the "adjusting" at the end of the story that involves contemplating and perhaps building a brick wall?
What is expected or required in adjustment? How are characters marked or described differently by it?
Perspective
Cultural/National/Racial
What are your thoughts on Sherman being mistaken as Chinese?
The story comes full circle and comes back to the family. What does the ending mean to you?
Why does Mona, after her last rendezvous in her yard with Sherman, want to move to Chinatown?
From the story, how is the relationship between "self" and the factors that help form a sense of identity presented, or to put it simpler, in what ways does Mona try to forge a persona (seemingly unique in her own eyes)?
What is your interpretation of the scene in the kitchen of Mona's house?
Full transcript