Who’s Irish is a short story by Gish Jen. The story is about a Chinese grandmother living in America and her relationship with her granddaughter, who is of Irish descent. The grandmother struggles to understand her granddaughter’s American lifestyle and values.
Who’s Irish was first published in 1999 and won the Pushcart Prize. It has been anthologized in several collections, including The Best American Short Stories 2000.
Jen was born in China but moved to the United States as a child. Who’s Irish reflects her own experiences as a Chinese immigrant living in America. Jen uses humor and satire to explore the cultural differences between the two countries. Who’s Irish is a touching story that will resonate with readers from all backgrounds.
Gish Jen’s “Who’s Irish” is a little story about a Chinese woman living in the United States. The grandmother lives with her grandchild Sophie, her daughter Natalie, and her unemployed, Irish son-in-law John. She describes Sophie as “wild (105)” and blames her Irish side. She states that she isn’t like any other Chinese girl she’d ever seen (106).
The grandmother is always trying to get Sophie to behave more like a Chinese girl, and less like an Irish girl.
The grandmother is very traditional, and she does not approve of John’s drinking or his unemployed status. She is always telling Natalie that she should find a better husband, and that she should not allow him to live with them. The grandmother is also very critical of America, and she does not understand why people do not work hard like they do in China.
One day, the grandmother takes Sophie to Chinatown. While they are there, the grandmother sees a man selling counterfeit watches. She tries to haggle with him, but he will not lower the price. The grandmother gets angry and calls him a “swindler” (108). Sophie then asks the man for a watch, and he gives her one for free.
The grandmother is very surprised by this, and she asks him why he gave it to her. He told her that it was because she was Chinese, and that he liked Chinese people. The grandmother is touched by this, and she buys a watch from him.
This story is about the clash between two cultures, and the difficulties of acculturation. The grandmother is unable to understand why her granddaughter does not want to be like her, and she is also unable to understand America. However, she is able to find some common ground with the man in Chinatown, and she is able to see that there are some good things about America.
The grandmother watches Sophie during the day and thinks she should be spanked, even though her family disagrees. Sophie continues to misbehave, and the Grandmother still belts her. One day at the park, Sophie goes into a hole and refuses to come out. The Grandmother tries to pry her out with a stick after poking her with it. When they return home with Sophie, they see scratches on her. After that, seeing the grandmother is forbidden for the parents. The idea here is that being caught between two cultures can be tough on a family.
Who’s Irish by Gish Jen is a short story about a Chinese-American family and their struggles with assimilation. The grandmother in the story is from China and does not understand American culture. This causes tension in the family because the grandparents want to raise their granddaughter in the Chinese tradition while the parents want her to be raised in an American household.
The story highlights the importance of communication and understanding within a family. Who’s Irish by Gish Jen All Elements of Fiction is a great example of a short story that uses all elements of fiction including, plot, setting, characters, point of view, theme, and symbol.
The Grandmother is the main character. She describes herself as “fierce (105)” and claims: “The gang members who used to come to the restaurant all feared me (107)”. Her husband and daughter fled China to America, where they opened a Chinese restaurant before her husband died. She is filled with hatred and resentment towards her daughter’s Irish spouse and family for their slothfulness.
The Grandmother is very tough, and has a sharp tongue. However, she is also lonely, as her family do not visit her often, and she feels that they are embarrassed by her.
When the story opens, the Grandmother is babysitting her granddaughter, Shannon. Shannon’s mother, Sophie, is Irish-American, and her father is Chinese-American. The Grandmother does not approve of Sophie’s marriage to Dan Doyle, an Irish-American man whom she considers to be lazy and shiftless.
The Grandmother tries to teach Shannon about her Chinese heritage, but Shannon is more interested in learning about Ireland from her father. The Grandmother is hurt by this, and feels that Shannon is rejecting her.
The Grandmother is also critical of the way that Sophie and Dan are raising Shannon. She thinks that they are too lenient with her, and that she should be disciplined more.
One day, when Shannon is playing with matches, she sets fire to the Grandmother’s hair. The Grandmother is very angry, but she does not punish Shannon. Instead, she takes her to the hospital to have her hair treated.
This experience makes the Grandmother realize that she loves Shannon, and that she has been wrong about her son-in-law and his family. She decides to visit them more often, and to try to understand them better.
She is not afraid to tell them what she thinks: “Even the black people who are doing better these days (105)” She places the blame for her granddaughter’s behavioral issues on her Irish side, and strongly believes that children should be spanked. She moves into Bess’ home after being revealed as a spanker. He respects Bess because she is such a powerful woman.
When Bess dies, she is heartbroken. She moves back in with her daughter and tries to get along with her granddaughter the best she can.
Grandma is a traditional Chinese woman who has lived in America for many years. Even though she is acclimated to American culture, she still holds onto her Chinese values. One of the biggest differences between her and Sophie is the way they view spanking. In America, spanking is seen as a form of child abuse, but in China it is considered a normal part of parenting. This difference in cultural values leads to a lot of tension between Grandma and Sophie.
Grandma is a very materiistic person. She is always talking about how things were better in China, and she constantly compares Sophie to her son-in-law’s mother, Bess. Even though she is not well off, she always tries to buy the best things for herself. For example, she buys a mink coat even though she can’t afford it and has nowhere to wear it.
Grandma is a very proud woman. She is always boasting about her accomplishments, like how she was the first person in her village to own a radio. She is also very stubborn and set in her ways. When her granddaughter starts acting out, she refuses to believe that it could be anything other than her Irish side causing the problems.
Even though Grandma can be difficult to deal with, she is ultimately a loving and caring person. She is always trying to help her daughter and granddaughter, even if her methods are sometimes unconventional. In the end, she just wants what’s best for them.