Row, Jess 1974–
Row, Jess 1974–
PERSONAL: Born 1974, in Washington, DC. Education: Montclair State University, graduated; University of Michigan, M.F.A.
ADDRESSES: Office—Montclair State University, Department of English, Montclair, New Jersey 07043.
CAREER: Writer and educator. Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ, instructor in creative writing, literature, and composition teacher. Montclair Chinese University of Hong Kong, Yale-China teaching fellow, 1997–99.
AWARDS, HONORS: Pushcart Prize, 2001, for "The Secrets of Bats"; Whiting Writer's Award, 2003.
The Train to Lo Wu (short stories), Dial Press (New York, NY) 2005.
Contributor to periodicals, including Ploughshares, Harvard Review, Threepenny Review, and Ontario Review.
Contributor to anthologies, including Best American Short Stories 2001, edited by Katrina Kenison and Barbara Kingsolver, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2001; The Pushcart Prize XXVI: The Best of the Small Presses, edited by Bill Henderson, Pushcart Press (New York, NY), 2001; Best American Short Stories 2003, edited by Katrina Kenison and Walter Mosley, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2003; and Gotham Writers' Workshop Fiction Gallery, edited by Alexander Steele and Thom Didat, Bloomsbury USA (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Short-story writer and teacher Jess Row is the author of The Train to Lo Wu, dubbed "another fine addition to a growing class of fiction by young Americans with experience abroad" by a Publishers Weekly reviewer. The seven stories included in the col-lection describe "encounters between tortured people—American, Polish, Chinese, all living in Hong Kong—who can't connect," observed Entertainment Weekly reviewer Jennifer Reese. In addition to the wide divide between native Chinese and foreign visitors, the book also addresses the drastic differences between worldly Hong Kong and secluded, repressed mainland China. Row, winner of a Pushcart Prize and a Whiting Award for his work, commented in an interview on the Montclair State University Web site that because the intersection of Hong Kong and China is "a place where cultures come into friction, interesting things happen. So the basis of the stories is what happens when cultures collide."
In "The Secret of Bats," which Booklist critic Donna Seaman described as "exquisite," an American man who teaches English at a Chinese girls' school watches with keen fascination as sixteen-year-old Alice, grieving over her mother's suicide, descends into obsession with echolocation, the method bats use to navigate their surroundings. Alice wanders the school grounds, blindfolded, trying to gain a bat's sense of direction and placement. All the while, her teacher develops his own type of obsession with Alice's potentially dangerous acts and her possible plunge into madness.
"The American Girl" focuses on American anthropologist to advance Jill Marcus. When Marcus comes to China to advance her study of trauma victims, she forces old Chen to relive traumatic events from his past. Chen, a blind masseur, suffered during the Cultural Revolution, when Red Guards killed his father, raped his mother, and blinded him. Though Chen at first resists telling Marcus his life story, gradually the painful memories overtake him.
In "For You," an American couple experiences the breakup of their marriage soon after moving to Hong Kong. Devastated, the man, a photographer, temporarily joins a Buddhist monastery to ponder the meaning of the event and to brood over his loss, looking for solace in the mysteries of Zen. The story provides an example of how "personal breakdowns tend to follow political displacement" in Row's works, the Publishers Weekly reviewer stated.
The book's title story finds Harvey, a wealthy Hong Kong resident, trying to win the affections of Lin, a proud young woman from the mainland. Social and economic differences interfere with the blossoming romance, as do cultural and political differences between two people so otherwise similar. Lin's life is proscribed in ways that Harvey cannot imagine, and his efforts to woo her meet with little success.
The stories in The Train to Lo Wu portray dislocated lives," commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor, concluding that the book serves as an "impressive debut from an admirably protean storyteller." In stories populated by "intriguing and unpredictable characters," Row "neatly and devastatingly contrasts dueling visions of faith, art, love, and freedom," Seaman concluded. Row's characters "are a mixed bunch," the Kirkus Reviews critic stated, "but all are effortlessly convincing."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 1, 2005, Donna Seaman, review of The Train to Lo Wu, p. 943.
Entertainment Weekly, January 28, 2005, Jennifer Reese, "Asian Fusions: Jennifer Reese Unpacks Three Asia-set Story Collections about Clueless Americans Abroad," review of The Train to Lo Wu, p. 86.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2004, review of The Train to Lo Wu, p. 1161.
Publishers Weekly, review of The Train to Lo Wu, p. 34.
Montclair State University Web site, http://www.montclair.edu/ (May 23, 2005), "Q&A: Jess Row, Professor, English."
Writingclasses.com, http://www.writingclasses.com/ (May 23, 2005), interview with Row.