Book Review: Tiger Writing: Art, Culture and the Interdependent Self by Gish Jen

In Tiger Writing, a memoir of art, culture, and interdependent self, author Gish Jen said, “Culture is not fate; it only offers templates, which individuals can finally accept, reject, or modify, and do.” Jen was born in the United States of immigrant parents who migrated from Yixing in Jiangsu province, west of Shanghai. The memoir is divided into three sections, which were presented as lectures at Massey Lectures in the History of American Civilization program at Harvard. It is a cultural memoir filled with beautiful passages of Chinese-American diaspora.

In narrative format, the author showed the readers how American culture glorifies “independent,” while Chinese culture is “interdependent.”

In the first section, her father’s memoir was the primary focus. Unlike American memoirs, which are filled with details of personal affairs and private thoughts, Mr. Jen’s focuses on things he saw and experienced, such as intriguing architectural and interior designs and where generations of family members received the character for their middle name. In the second section, Gish discussed the differences between European-Americans and Asian-Americans in terms of self portrayals. Individuals in the first group are more self-focused than those in the second group. In the third section, the author included critical analyses of the two cultures and how scientific studies and anecdotes from literary works made sense in the life of the author’s –a novelist’s.

It’s a memoir of diaspora unlike others, for it is also a vivid comparison of two cultures and the collision of two philosophies of self –independence and interdependence. In this memoir, readers can clearly sense Gish Jen’s joy and anguish caught in the diaspora. Beautiful and clever.

–A book review by

Book Details:

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publish Date: March 2013
Pages: 224
Review Date: May 9, 2013
Author’s Site: