Who's Irish?

This study guide will help you analyze the short story “Who’s Irish?” (1999) by Gish Jen. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective

Gish Jen (b. 1955) is a Chinese-American writer. The short story “Who’s Irish?” was published in a short story collection with the same name. Gish Jen has received several awards for her fiction and non-fiction. Some of her most famous novels are Typical American and The Love Wife.


Here, you can read an extract from our study guide: 

Social setting

One of the issues explored by the story’s social setting is the immigrants’ struggle to adapt to American society. This issue is illustrated by the narrator, who, as a Chinese immigrant, cannot fully adapt to the US. The narrator and her husband have been successful with their business: “When I come to this country, I have no money and do not speak English. But my husband and I own our restaurant before he die. Free and clear, no mortgage” (p. 4, ll.22-24). Despite this, the narrator finds the American culture challenging. For example, she cannot understand why Natalie is so supportive of her unemployed husband: “I tell daughter, We do not have this word in Chinese, supportive” (p. 5, ll. 19-20). She does not understand why a girl like Amy was hired as babysitter: “… I cannot even look at this Amy, with her shirt so short that her belly button showing” (p. 8, ll. 14-15). 

Moreover, the narrator is judgmental of Natalie and John’s decision to educate their daughter without physically punishing her. This shows that, as a Chinese immigrant, the narrator cannot give up Chinese tradition and adapt to the American ways. 

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Who's Irish?

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