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Who's Irish?: Stories

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  545 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
The stories in Who's Irish? show us the children of immigrants looking wonderingly at their parents' efforts to assimilate, while the older generation asks how so much selfless hard work on their part can have yielded them offspring who'd sooner drop out of life than succeed at it.

With dazzling wit and compassion, Gish Jen--author of the acclaimed novels Typical American a
Paperback, 224 pages
Published June 13th 2000 by Vintage (first published 1999)
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Feb 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
What a great collection of stories. I picked this up after reading a Samantha Lan Chang interview where she cites Gish as a similar author. Gish has a wonderful roughness to her writing, a deadpan humor that eases the harshness of the stories. While I wouldn't necessarily compare these stories with Chang's, I'm eager to pick up a novel.

House, House, Home, the last story in the book, really got into the question of voluntary exclusion. Juxtaposing an eccentric and affluent art professor with Pam
Michael  Malone
Oct 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Dazzling. Eight short stories focused essentially on the Chinese experience in America, with one on the (Chinese-) American experience in China. (The title, stemming from a Chinese woman's view of the Irish-American family her daughter married into, is misleading.) Expertly articulated; Jen has a gift for rendering tiny details with exquisite flair in her depictions of foreignness and alienation.
The final story, House, House, Home, flips the script, with the protagonist getting a new perspectiv
Jun 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. Although from skimming the other reviews, it seems like some felt that Jen is better-suited to novels than short stories, I disagree. Sometimes, Jen's novels feel a little schizophrenic to me in the middle, like Jen loses her attention span and is racing around from perspective to perspective. In the short stories, obviously, Jen doesn't need to maintain her attention span through 300 pages, and I feel the book is better for it. I really enjoy Jen's writing style and ...more
May 22, 2011 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one.
Lord this was boring. First of all, it's short stories, which I tend to disklike b/c I want more from my characters and time. Secondly, the short stories were too short!! haha. And, really it was almost like they were trying too hard to be quirky or something. I just really thoroughly did not enjoy reading this. The only reason I did was b/c my Italian mother-in-law gave it to me as a joke for Christmas, as the new solo Irish girl in the family. Here was the rub -- it's about Asians, not Irishme ...more
Katie M.
Oct 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
Love me some Gish Jen. Her writing is compassionate, whip-smart, and always a delight to read. I didn't actually find most of these stories to be nearly as good as her novels, and there are definitely several duds in this collection ("Duncan in China" in particular is kind of a snoozer) but still definitely worth a read.
Laura K
Aug 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
It takes a lot of talent to weave stories involving the same characters through a series of books and short stories. Gish Jen is a master at this. I read the more recent books first, and now find myself looking eagerly for the appearance of a familiar character in the earlier short stories.
Ira Sukrungruang
Aug 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
That first story is simply a knock out.
Jun 12, 2017 rated it liked it
I didn't realize when I picked this book up that it was short stories. Not my favorite read. As I always end up caring about the characters and then they are gone. Same is true here. The first story about the mother/grandmother was funny. Jen's prose took me right there and I could picture the scene and was giggling at the mother's thoughts of her son-in-law's family during a Thanksgiving dinner. Priceless. The second story tore at my heartstrings of a broken man who was afraid of everything aft ...more
Jan 30, 2018 rated it liked it
As with many short story collections, some of this book's stories were gems while others fell flat for me. The title story had me laughing out loud, while several in the middle of the collection just left me depressed. I definitely appreciate the way Jen's stories explore so many different facets of the Asian American experience. However, the novel Mona in the Promised Land does it better than Who's Irish.
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This collection of short stories about the experiences of being Chinese American is incredibly diverse and interesting. Each story has a unique point of view, and the spectrum of characters and voices is incredible. Thought provoking and easy to read.
Yiwen Xu
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautiful stories, but many of them promised more than they gave.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Connor Smith
Oct 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Right on the cover there's a question mark with a little Chinese girl for the dot. And the title's "Who's Irish?" How could this not be a whole novel about short stories that question the very notion of ethnicity? Well, easily, apparently. I always imagined the title story to be a gathering of Chinese parents in a park, together trying to contemplate Americans. But that's not really what this collection is about. This collection is more about the stories of people where the notion of ethnicity i ...more
Tobi Akinwunmi
Mar 01, 2015 rated it did not like it
I gave the book a rating of 2.5 or 3. I had no trouble deciding this rating. In the beginning the book was alright and not too bad but as it progressed it just became boring. The fact that it changed to different peoples lives was interesting though. I’ll also give the author credit that they were able to described people and things well. One last thing I liked was that the grandmother wasn't named at all in the story somehow it helped the story. The fact that he grandmother wasn't named didn't ...more
Jun 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
lucid, witty, compassionate prose. gish jen really dramatizes multicultural concerns in a more playful, more complex way than activists often will (thankfully!). some pieces are stronger than others--and i wish the cast had been more diverse--but i very much admired her delicate and human touch with very prickly, highly politicized subjects. such as the model minority stereotype, asian fetishes, interracial families, and diasporic nostalgia. gish manages to find something funny and liberating in ...more
Apr 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: modern-lit
Good collection of short stories by Gish Jen. IMHO, the title story and the ending story ("House, House, Home") are the best. In the title story, the POV is that of a Chinese mother-in-law who doesn't understand her Chinese-American banker daughter, her loser Irish American son-in-law, and her stubborn, American granddaughter. It was great! The final story is a story of a Chinese American college student who becomes the 3rd wife of much older art professor ("Sven"), has 3 children by him over th ...more
Aug 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
After nearly three years of ownership I've finally gotten around to reading all the stories! I really enjoyed most of them (admittedly because I could identify with at least elements of many) and love Jen's wit and humor. I was surprisingly touched the first time I read "Who's Irish?", and it will probably remain one of my favorite short stories. I liked "House, House, Home" least because of the improbable couple (one of my greatest pet peeves, and it didn't help that their story dragged on for ...more
Apr 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
In addition to portraying a wide array of characters and spaces I have never met before--you know what I mean, right? In certain stories, you're like, "I know this character."--not in Jen's stories--I love her quirky word choice. The collection is cliche-free, as I far as I can tell, a does, as the cover jacket text promises, provide "a gently satiric look at the American Dream." Well worth the read. After the opening title story, there is a bit of a slow patch, but if you appreciate the subtlet ...more
Lee Anne
Mar 05, 2008 rated it liked it
Not as good as her previous novels. This is an example of what I mean when I say I don't like short stories, when what I really mean is I don't like BAD short stories. The first story was good, and the last, longest story was good. The rest read like I came into the middle of a movie, watched part of it, then someone changed the channel. I have her most recent novel, The Love Wife, in my to-be-read pile; when I get around to it in a couple of years (probably), I'm sure I'll like it more.
Mar 31, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
She plays this mean trick where she sets up the situation with these engaging characters, maybe charming or funny, maybe some dilemma, and so you want to see what happens, and then the story ends. Maybe it's some sort of statement or artistic flair, but I'd rather just keep reading. Maybe just some stealth advertising for her novels.
Nov 04, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: gish jen's parents, i have no fucking clue
Shelves: read-in-2007
wow. i don't remember this at all. i know it's a short story collection. i know i was kind of into it at the time. not in a "i love it!" way. more in a "i don't resent the fact that i am reading this" way, faint praise, to be sure. i couldn't tell you what a single story was actually about. i guess gish jen & lorrie moore should form a club: authors that ciara vaguely likes but can't recall.
Well-written stories with a wry sense of humor. But if I never read another story about a young woman tumbling for her much older professor, and how that relationship surprisingly doesn't work out very well, that will be okay. (It's still a good story.)
In honor of Asian-Pacific Heritage month, I picked-up this book at the library but I slogged through the stories. I found the character's identities too similar to other books I've read of immigrants in the U.S. or that have returned to their birthplace.
Jan 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
i love short stories and gish jen is so talented at being able to hold the complexities of interracial relationships, cultural issues and intergenerational issues while using humor to sidestep the seriousness of it all.
Michael Martin
Nov 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is excellent. I'd compare it to Ha Jin's The Bridegroom, which is one of my favorite story collections. Every story is crisp, well-plotted, surprising, and compelling.
Nov 10, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: put-down
This is strictly competent set of authorial-narcissism, and I definitely want to take out out of the school library so I can lose it in the woods somewhere.
Aug 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories, china
Hit or miss.
Apr 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
"I am work hard my whole life, and fierce besides." Love it.
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Funny, quirky, real. Gosh Jen's writing sparkles.
Nov 30, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: recommended
I found her first short story "Who's Irish?" entertaining, but then the remainder were a little dark.
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Gish Jen grew up in New York, where she spoke more Yiddish than Chinese. She has been featured in a PBS American Masters program on the American novel. Her distinctions also include a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, a Guggenheim fellowship, a Fulbright fellowship, and a Radcliffe Institute fellowship. She was awarded a Lannan Literary Prize in 1999 and received a Harold and Mildred Str ...more
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“Plain boiled food, plain boiled thinking. Even his name is plain boiled: John. Maybe because I grew up with black bean sauce and hoisin sauce and garlic sauce, I always feel something is missing when my son-in-law talk.” 2 likes
“He would not want to sound like a haunted man; he would not want to sound as though he was calling from a welfare hotel, years too late, to say Yes, that was a baby we had together, it would have been a baby. For he could not help now but recall the doctor explaining about that child, a boy, who had appeared so mysteriously perfect in the ultrasound. Transparent, he had looked, and gelatinous, all soft head and quick heart; but he would have, in being born, broken every bone in his body.” 1 likes
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