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Reviews of Thank You, Mr. Nixon by Gish Jen

Thank You, Mr. Nixon

Stories

by Gish Jen

Thank You, Mr. Nixon by Gish Jen X
Thank You, Mr. Nixon by Gish Jen
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2022, 272 pages

    Paperback:
    Nov 2022, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
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About this Book

Book Summary

The acclaimed, award-winning author of The Resisters takes measure of the fifty years since the opening of China and its unexpected effects on the lives of ordinary people. It is a unique book that only Jen could write - a story collection accruing the power of a novel as it proceeds - a work that Cynthia Ozick has called "an art beyond art. It is life itself."

Beginning with a cheery letter penned by a Chinese girl in heaven to "poor Mr. Nixon" in hell, Gish Jen embarks on a fictional journey through U.S.-China relations, capturing the excitement of a world on the brink of tectonic change.

Opal Chen reunites with her Chinese sisters after forty years; newly cosmopolitan Lulu Koo wonders why Americans "like to walk around in the woods with the mosquitoes"; Hong Kong parents go to extreme lengths to reestablish contact with their "number-one daughter" in New York; and Betty Koo, brought up on "no politics, just make money," finds she must reassess her mother's philosophy.

With their profound compassion and equally profound humor, these eleven linked stories trace the intimate ways in which humans make and are made by history, capturing an extraordinary era in an extraordinary way. Delightful, provocative, and powerful, Thank You, Mr. Nixon furnishes yet more proof of Gish Jen's eminent place among American storytellers.

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

There is a subtle and warm but deceptively powerful humor that blooms throughout Jen's book, a gathering of often-linked stories exploring China's relationship with the rest of the world and the consequences of this relationship to individual people. Her characters are not quite the logical outcome of their sociopolitical circumstances, but rather people who have fallen into particular, sometimes peculiar, crevices of existence, and they are exquisitely written...continued

Full Review (760 words)

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(Reviewed by Elisabeth Cook).

Media Reviews

Minneapolis Star Tribune
A jewel box of creativity and a joy to uncover ... Across eleven synergistic stories about interconnected families, Jen creates a sort of episodic epic spanning fifty years ... These stories offer valuable insight into our world, which feels increasingly divided in countless ways. Surely everyone—us and them, whoever they are—would benefit if together we read what Jen has to say.

The Boston Globe
A collection to treasure. [Jen] creates a panoramic universe of deftly sketched tales both comic and tragic. Her prose sparkles with clarity and moves with deceptive simplicity toward profound conclusions.

The Millions
Fantastic ... An original, mind-blowing exploration of U.S.-China relations/dynamics ... The collection makes you laugh, gasp, wonder, and sometimes give you pause. In those little moments when you pause to think, you are actually witnessing the astonishing transformations that have been reshaping the world and era we live in.

The New York Times
Marvelous ... On the surface her storytelling seems simple and direct, but the closer you look the more layered and complex it becomes. Through characters distracted by the superficial colors of their lives, Jen invites her readers to consider profound questions about history, ancestry and identity ... In all her work, Jen locates the tensions between inherited and lived cultures.

Seattle Times
These stories offer valuable insight into our world, which feels increasingly divided in countless ways. Surely everyone — us and them, whoever they are — would benefit if together we read what Jen has to say.

Booklist (starred review)
Jen distills five decades of cultural collision, confusion, and collaboration between the U.S. and China into eleven gorgeously comedic and heartbreaking stories...For all the pain and poignancy, Jen is wryly hilarious, her plots spring-loaded, her dialogue ricocheting and spiked with contrasts in languages and customs...The connections Jen finesses among her entrancing characters are surprising and piquing, her painterly descriptions compassionate and amusing, her summoning of ambiguity and hard truths uniquely illuminating.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Stunning...Hilarious [and] heartbreaking...A fresh take on the experience of immigration and exile...Political and economic relations between China and the United States are major news, but Jen takes it to the micro level in her vibrant short stories...Jen's crisp prose, wonderful eye for detail, and wry humor make them a joy to read, and there is wisdom here, too.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
President Nixon's 1972 visit to China provides the context for Jen's masterly collection, which explores the cultural wounds and generational gaps of mainlanders and Chinese Americans...With wry humor, pathos, and punchy dialogue, Jen's uncanny stories easily stand up to her hefty themes. This is a stellar addition to Jen's prolific body of work.

Author Blurb Jean Kwok, author of Girl in Translation
An absolute delight. Jen's luminous, deeply moving stories are filled with insight and humor, heartbreak and love. Her elegant prose creates characters who not only endear themselves to us but also illuminate our common humanity. Gorgeous.

Author Blurb Lisa See, author of The Island of Sea Women
I loved Thank You, Mr. Nixon so much that I find myself wishing for two things. One, that I could have the space in a review to praise it to the skies and back again. Two, that I could meet Gish Jen and talk to her into the wee hours about how she accomplished such a fantastic work. I've read a lot of novels that take place in China or are about the Chinese American experience. Never before have I seen the China of the last fifty years captured so well, in such an intricately and cleverly constructed plot, or with such understanding and deep wit, while the chapters that take place in the U.S. are current, spot on, and sometimes critical—all written with great love as the foundation. I'm overflowing with admiration.

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Beyond the Book

The Work of Mark Rothko

No 14 by Mark Rothko featuring large orange rectangle above blue rectangleThe story "Rothko, Rothko" in Gish Jen's collection Thank You, Mr. Nixon features an art forger who is dedicated to mimicking the work of the abstract painter Mark Rothko. Known for his depictions of intensely colored rectangular figures, Rothko is considered one of the most notable artists of the 20th century.

An American of Latvian Jewish descent, Rothko was born in the then-Russian city of Dvinsk (now Latvia's Daugavpils) in 1903. After his family moved to the United States in 1913, he attended grade school and high school in Portland, Oregon before going on to Yale University in 1921. He dropped out after two years and wandered the country, then moved to New York City in 1925, beginning his painting career as a student of the Russian...

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