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  • NYS Writers Institute

Albany Book Festival Pick of the Week: "The Resisters" by Gish Jen

We're using this space to highlight authors and books that'll be featured at our upcoming Albany Book Festival coming to you online September 10-24. 

Gish Jen joins us for a one-on-one talk with writer Jane Leavy on the topic "Taking Risks with Your Writing"  More information on that online event will be posted on the book festival website. In the meantime, we introduce you to ...

The Resisters by Gish Jen

Book description:

The time: not so long from now. The place: AutoAmerica. The land: half under water. The Internet: one part artificial intelligence, one part surveillance technology, and oddly human–even funny. The people: Divided. The angel-fair “Netted” have jobs, and literally occupy the high ground. The copper-toned “Surplus” live on swampland if they’re lucky, on water if they’re not.The story: To a Surplus couple–he once a professor, she still a lawyer–is born a Blasian girl with a golden arm. At two, Gwen is hurling her stuffed animals from the crib; by ten, she can hit whatever target she likes. Her teens find her happily playing in an underground baseball league.

When AutoAmerica rejoins the Olympics, though–with a special eye on beating ChinRussia–Gwen attracts interest. Soon she finds herself playing ball with the Netted even as her mother challenges the very foundations of this divided society.

A moving and important story of an America that seems only too possible, The Resisters is also the story of one family struggling to maintain its humanity in circumstances that threaten their every value–even their very existence.

Extraordinary and ordinary, charming and electrifying, this is Gish Jen at the height of her powers - and at her most irresistible.

About the author:

GIsh Jen has published short work in the New Yorker, The Atlantic, and dozens of other periodicals, anthologies and textbooks. Her work has appeared in The Best American Short Stories four times, including The Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike. Nominated for a National Book Critics’ Circle Award, her work was featured in a PBS American Masters’ special on the American novel and is widely taught. Stephen King praised The Resisters – her eighth book – as "An absolute joy."

A graduate of Harvard University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Jen lives in Cambridge with her husband and two children. She visited the NYS Writers Institute in 1999 and again in 2018.

Back in March, we featured Gish here in The Conversation.

Q: What can dystopian literature teach us about the present moment?

A: Our worst nightmares are clarifying. What do we really care about? What would we fight for? What keeps our hearts beating? Our everyday lives can distract us from our own deepest truths. Read more

From her publisher Knopf

Q: Was there a particular event or idea that gave rise to THE RESISTERS? What made you set a novel in the future?

A: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a child about to enter college must be in want of advice. And it is a truth just as universally perceived that one’s child will have none of it.

Every parent knows this. As for what I did, then, when my younger child began her freshman year — in a year when I was both hugely worried about the direction of our country, and hugely hopeful that the young would prove up to the task of changing it – that was to write THE RESISTERS. I did not sit down with the intention of giving advice. If I had any intention, it was to enjoy the freedom of my empty nest. For the first time in decades, after all, I had whole days in which to write; if you hear a certain buoyancy in this dystopia, that’s me, dancing. But when a child leaves the house, she does not leave your thoughts. And so even as I danced, I found myself portraying a future world in which so many of our current challenges –from the erosion of democracy, to the acceleration of climate change, to the fanning of racism and xenophobia, to the booming of automation—have gone unmet. I might as well have been sagely reminding my daughter of the challenges that lie ahead for her generation—of what’s at stake. Of what she ought to be strenuously preparing herself for. Read more

From a New York Times book review:

"Into this totalitarian landscape, like a flower slipped into the barrel of a rifle, Jen inserts an almost old-fashioned baseball novel. We meet Gwen, a young southpaw with long fingers and hair dyed the color of a David Hockney swimming pool. She redoes her ponytail on the mound between pitches before launching her blistering fastball and her spookily precise off-speed stuff. Her slider and curveball combination — her slurve — is a killer."

New York Times, January 27, 2020. Written by Dwight Garner, who is also a featured guest at the Albany Book Festival. Read more.

More Gish Jen:

Video clip from Gish Jen's 2018 visit to the NYS Writers Institute:




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