To truly understand multicultural literature, one must first try to understand the cultural background of the author. In the case of this piece, we are examining the Chinese culture and Jen 's experiences which shaped her writing. Gish Jen is a second-generation American. Her parents immigrated separately in the 1940 's. Her mother came to America to go to graduate school and her father came as part of the war efforts during World War II. With the rise of Communism in China, both were forced to remain here and ended up building a life together and raising their 5 children as Americans. Because they came in the second of three "waves" of Chinese Immigration, their reasons for coming and the process of assimilating into the American way of life was very different than other Chinese immigrants.
During the first wave, from 1849-1882, the reasons for immigrating were mainly economic. Thousands of poor young males came from China to labor in America. In 1882, however, the Chinese Exclusion act was passed, making it so the second wave of immigrants contained only diplomats, merchants, and students. Chinese immigrants were segregated from mainstream America and lived in Chinatowns with no diplomatic rights until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Along with this act came the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which allowed more Chinese to
Cited: Chinese Immigration to the United States. Accessed 03/27/2005. Lauter, Paul. The Health Anthology of American Literature. Accessed 03/20/2005. Moyers, Bill. Public Affairs Television "Becoming American: Personal Journeys" Interview with Gish Jen. 2003. Accessed 03/23/2005.