Fifty years ago, President Richard Nixon stepped off a plane in Beijing: a visit that changed the course of China, the US, the Cold war and the world. The stories in Gish Jen’s newest story collection, Thank You Mr Nixon, span the fifty-year relationship since then, from a Chinese woman press-ganged into translating for her Western tour group, to an English professor struggling to teach the wealthy Chinese students at his university.
Gish Jen is the author of one previous book of stories, five novels, and two works of nonfiction. Her honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and the Fulbright Foundation. Her stories have been chosen for The Best American Short Stories five times, including The Best American Short Stories of the Century; she has also delivered the William E Massey, Sr, Lectures in American Studies at Harvard University. She and her husband split their time between Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Vermont.
In this interview, Gish and I talk about why she wrote this story collection, covering fifty years of encounters and connections between Chinese, Americans, and Chinese-Americans.