Writer connects culture, race identity with survival mechanism

Jen said everyone could see that race is not just color. Class is not tangible, she said, but exists in the mutual understanding in a culture about who is limited and who is not.

Gish Jen, author of “World and Town,” signs books Wednesday after giving a reading at the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus.

Novelist Gish Jen attributes a society’s difficulty with accepting others to a biological cause.

“Our biological inheritance is implicated. I think that we are hard-wired to be tribal, to recognize some as same and others as ‘other,’” she said Wednesday. “I think that that’s a survival mechanism, but it doesn’t service anyone.”

Jen lectured and read excerpts from her novel “World and Town” as a part of the “Writers at Rutgers” reading series in the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus.

The author took the audience through a narrative that involved presenting her characters with challenges of dealing with their own racial identities, with all of them ultimately reaching an understanding of other identities and cultures the United States.

“Jen invites us to recognize complexities, challenges and contradictions of what it means to live in America. Jen pushes us to see the multi-cultural, multi-ethic and multi-religious world we live,” said Rick Lee, an English instructor who taught “World and Town” in his “Asian North American Literature and Film” course.


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