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Gish Jen goes from novels to nonfiction

Here in Cambridge’s Neighborhood Nine is your typical American house, a two-story affair in cadet grey; winters have tarnished its wrought-iron fence, the gate of which is fixed open; a flagstone path leads from there to the door. Inside, you’ll find a mixture of old and new: at one end of the kitchen, a squarish black Jotul stove, at the other, a stainless-steel fridge. Then there is Gish Jen.

Standing barefoot in the kitchen, she looks as though she could be only slightly taller than the doorbell out front. Since 1991, she has published four acclaimed novels and a prize-winning collection of short fiction, to say nothing of the fellowships she has held, the grants she has received. In a town filled with literary giants, among them Alice Hoffman, Ha Jin, and Jennifer Haigh, Jen stands tall.

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