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Critical Analysis of “Who’s Irish?” by Gish Jen Essay

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Updated: Sep 24th, 2021

Given the fact that the doctrine of multiculturalism has been promoted in America for quite a few years, we now have a whole spectrum of so-called “multicultural-progressive” literature, which despite its failure to represent a literary value, is being often referred to as “highly-acclaimed”. Gish Jen’s collection of short stories “Who’s Irish?” can serve as a good example of such literature. In it, author strives to provide readers with the insight on relationship between her own family members, who are being affected by racial mixing, without realizing that this actually accounts for the bulk of “existential problematics”, on their part.

Author’s point of view cannot be easily defined, as she tends to indulge in discussion of issues, about which she has very little knowledge. However, it is clear that Jen strives to relate the existence of “intercultural” and “generational” gaps, within her own family, to the fact that American society continues to be based on the principles of euro-centrism. Jen thinks of it as something inappropriate. Such opinion, of course, cannot be perceived by sober-minded readers as representing socio-political value, despite the fact that Jen claims to be in possession of ultimate formula of how to make American society “more civilized”.

Apart from the fact that Jen’s book contains many ideological inconsistencies, it is also poorly written, in literary context of this word. Book’s stories only formally relate to each other, with the motif of “celebration of diversity” being exposed to readers repeatedly, as if they did not get the idea of what “Who’s Irish?” is all about, after having read the first few pages in Jen’s “masterpiece”. Stories’ characterization can be referred as inadequate, at best, because Jen’s characters do not seem as being able to learn from their earlier mistakes.

They do not evolve, while preferring to adopt a “stuck in time” mode of existence, which probably can be explained by their ethnic affiliation. It might sound hilarious, but Jen appears to be genuinely puzzled over the fact that book’s main characters, Ralph and Helen (Chinese-Americans who adopted European names) are still having a hard time, while trying to integrate into American society, despite the fact that they speak some English and drive European cars.

Book’s main theme is best defined as follows: “Despite the fact that Chinese-Americans are being hardly concerned with anything, except for skinning cats and dogs and running their privately owned Laundromats, they still represent a great human asset, which is why we need to allow even more Asians to settle down in America, so that they continue celebrating diversity at taxpayers’ expense”.

We do not argue with author’s right to express her opinions freely, just as we do not doubt our right to refer to Jen’s book as to what it really is – a piece of garbage. “I think I struggle with that stuff (exploring her “uniqueness”) much more than other people struggle with it. That’s probably very Asian” – says author, which allows readers to come to conclusion that it is only the matter of time, before Jen will come up with demands of monetary compensation for her “suffering” in “intolerant” and “racist” America.

In order to conclude this paper, we will need to state the following: despite the fact that Jen strives to dispel the “myth” of incompatibility of Asian mentality with the mentality of White people – she actually does something opposite, while providing readers with the insight on why Chinese immigrants in America lead secularized mode of existence. This is because they do not think of themselves as simply Americans but as Chinese-Americans.

The fact that author implies that White people have the same mentality, by continuously referring to native-born Americans of Irish ethnic background as “Irish-Americans”, betrays her as person who clearly misunderstands the essence of social dynamics in this country. As result, we cannot stop wondering as to the fact why Jen seem to be preoccupied with exploring her “uniqueness” in America, whereas it would be so much easier for her to do it China.

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