Tickets on Sale Now for 21st Annual Brady Author's Symposium at Catawba College
February 16, 2007
View Photo Gallery »
A second-generation Chinese American, Jen grew up in a large Jewish community in Scarsdale, N.Y. She earned her undergraduate degree in English from Harvard University and her M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She published her short story, "In the American Society," in 1986. It was followed by her first novel, "Typical American" in 1991, a New York Times notable book of the year and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. In "Typical American," Jen attempted to redefine Americanness as a preoccupation with identity.
"Mona in the Promised Land," also a New York Times notable book, was published in 1996 and concerned the invention of ethnicity. With it, Jen was hailed by Dan Cryer of Newsday as "a literary force worthy of attention and respect." Her collection of short stories, "Who's Irish," appeared in 1999 and received rave reviews.
"What I have come to realize is that this business of not being accepted an American does not only affect Asian-Americans," she continued in her interview with Moyer. "It affects so many people. You sort of wonder who really feels unequivocally American, honestly. It seems that many, many people are subject to this feeling of slight estrangement. That's the first thing. And the second thing I would say is that in my experience, if you claim America, no one will dispute your claim. No one's gonna hand it to you but if you say, 'Well, this is mine,' no one is gonna stop you, either. And that's been very empowering for me."
Jen's latest novel, "The Love Wife" was published in 2004. It explored a racially-mixed family and raised the question "What is a family?" The narrative is told in the different voices of the Wong family members.
A 2004 Bookmarks Magazine review of "The Love Wife," noted that "Jen's third novel draws a wide range of opinions, from the glowing to the bitter. One common thread is appreciation for Jen's prose… The multiple first-person narrators provide perspective and richness, as does Jen's bighearted insight into the cultural divide."
A New York Times review cited "The Love Wife" as "A big story: a story about families and identity and race and the American Dream," while a review by the Philadelphia Inquirer described it as "a lush, funny, yet deeply moving novel of family and identity, a wondrous swoosh of a story."
Jen has written for The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times. Her short fiction has appeared in textbooks and anthologies.
She has been awarded fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, Guggenheim Foundation, the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe, Fulbright, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is a former senior fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advance Studies. She was also honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters with a Strauss Living, the most lucrative literary honor in the United States.
Jen, who is the mother of two biracial children, lives with her family in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She joins an impressive group of authors who have spoken at previous Brady Author's Symposia, including Reynolds Price, Doris Betts, Lee Smith, Kay Gibbons, Fred Chappell, Robert Inman, John Berendt, Pat Conroy, Terry Kay, Gail Godwin, Ann Hood, Tim McLaurin, Frances Mayes, Rick Bragg, Susan Vreeland, and Jodi Picoult.;
For more details or tickets, contact the Catawba College Public Relations Office at (704) 637-4393.