It is 1968, the dawn of the age of ethnicity: African Americans are turning Chinese, Jews are turning black, and though some nice Chinese girls are turning more Chinese, teenaged Mona Chang is turning Jewish, much to her parents’ chagrin.
The Chang family has just moved to posh Scarshill, New York, where the rhododendrons are as big as the Chang family’s old bathroom, and no one trims the forsythia into little can shapes. This takes some getting used to, especially since there’s also a new social landscape, with a hot line, a mystery caller, and a Temple Youth Group full of radical ideas.
Mona quickly bleaches her bell-bottoms. Then it’s off with her friends to reform race relations. They find a cause in Alfred, the handsome black number-two cook at Mona’s parents’ pancake house, and pretty soon there is a mansion hideout with an underground railroad and a utopia called Camp Gugelstein.
Certain love affairs run into trouble, though. And by their end, for better or for worse, certain unforeseen truths of contemporary American have been memorably revealed.
“We might want to run Gish Jen for President… This brilliant writer fractures the melting pot and re-sets the literary table right before our very eyes.” —Jayne Anne Phillips
“Can a novel be both hilariously funny and seriously important? Yes, in the case of Mona in the Promised Land.” —Amy Tan
“What I love about this story is that while it is written in the nineties by an American woman, the author seems to relish every politically incorrect moment …a warm and witty exploration of racial and religious divides.” —Literary Review
“What a good laughing out loud book this is.” —Grace Paley
“A light-hearted novel of radiant charm and human warmth, Gish Jen’s funny, headlong, and completely delightful narrative of high-achieving Chinese and Jewish suburbanites is indelibly American and could unfold nowhere else.”