by Gish Jen
from November 22, 2021
This is the second story by Gish Jen published in The New Yorker, the first being “No More Maybe” in March 2018. Browsing the interview with Deborah Treisman, I think the opening question introduces the story nicely:
Your story “Detective Dog” centers on a wealthy Hong Kong family who moved, to escape the violent protests of 2014, first to Vancouver and then to New York, where they construe many things differently than most Americans might. When the nine-year-old Robert joins the People of Color club at his school, for example, his mother Betty, wants to tell him, “We are not people of color, Robert. We are rich.” What does she mean.
I’ll let you read the interview to see the answer, but clearly there are some interesting things going on in Jen’s story, lots of it introduced in the first few paragraphs. Here they are, as a taster.
“No politics, just make money,” Betty’s mother, Tina, liked to say. And when it came to China: “See nothing, hear nothing, say nothing. Do you hear me?”
“I hear nothing,” Betty had wanted to say something. Or, well, many times, really. But instead she’d said nothing and, as directed, made a lot of money. After all, she was the good daughter.
And that was how it was that when umbrellas took over Hong Kong she had a nice place in Vancouver. And that was how it was, too, that when racism took over Vancouver she could up and move to New York. It was convenient to be rich, you had to say. In New York, she didn’t even have to buy an apartment. She and her husband and the boys just moved into her sister’s old place, which they liked so much that they bought the apartment next door, and then the apartment on the other side, too. They figured they’d turn the extra kitchens into bathrooms.
Looking forward to seeing what you all think!