The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap

Gish Jen. Knopf, $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-101-94782-1
Novelist Jen (Typical American) gleans insight from the field of cultural psychology and her own experiences as an American-born daughter of Chinese immigrants to explore the nature of cultural divide between Eastern and Western societies. She argues that the culture gap “stems from a difference between the conception of self that dominates the West and the conception of self that dominate the East.” She explores the notion of the Western construct as “individualist, independent” and Eastern as “interdependent” and “collectivistic” through a variety of prisms—such as education, business, art, and relationships—and unpacks tough subjects, such as racism and prejudice in America, with sophisticated insight. Her examples are rooted in her own experience as a first generation Chinese-American, so the book focuses a lot on China and America, specifically describing the experiences of more affluent city-dwelling Americans. Jen is most compelling when she draws attention to the blended constructs of those who straddle both cultures, such as Taiwanese-American director Ang Lee or Chinese-American artist Maya Lin. She articulates the complexities of culture with a novelist’s command of language in this rich exploration of the East-West culture gap. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/13/2017
Release date: 02/28/2017
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