Abstract

This article reads Gish Jen’s Mona in the Promised Land (1996) as a work of metafamily fiction. Troubling the conventional interpretation of Mona as a novel of intergenerational conflict that concludes with a happy ending, this article argues that the novel can be more meaningfully understood as a satirical commentary on traditional forms of the immigrant family romance. The argument draws on Sianne Ngai’s work on tone to shed light on the perfunctory-ness in the narrator’s voice in the “epilogue,” and to re-interpret that section as a metafictional element which Jen attached to Mona to appease the editorial imperatives of the neoliberal market, while indicating her own authorial position’s embeddedness in that same market’s appetite for good feelings from Asian American literature. The article further employs Jonathan Flatley’s theory of counter-mood to re-position “Chapter 15: Discoveries” as the more sincere ending within Mona. In that chapter, Jen subverts the idealization of the model minority family by presenting an anti-resolution that resists the positive affect of narrative closure as part of her critique of normative familial aesthetics which political conservatism began to agitate for in the aftermath of the civil rights movement.

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