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The Resisters
Cover of The Resisters
The Resisters
A novel
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The provocative, moving, and paradoxically buoyant story of one family struggling to maintain their humanity in circumstances that threaten their every value.  The time: not so long from now....
The provocative, moving, and paradoxically buoyant story of one family struggling to maintain their humanity in circumstances that threaten their every value.  The time: not so long from now....
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Description-

  • The provocative, moving, and paradoxically buoyant story of one family struggling to maintain their humanity in circumstances that threaten their every value. 
     
    The time: not so long from now. The place: AutoAmerica, a country surveilled by one “Aunt Nettie,” a Big Brother that is part artificial intelligence, part internet, and oddly human—even funny. The people: divided. The “angelfair” Netted have jobs and, what with the country half under water, literally occupy the high ground. The Surplus live on swampland if they’re lucky, on water if they’re not.
     
    The story: To a Surplus couple—he once a professor, she still a lawyer—is born a girl, Gwen, with a golden arm. Her teens find her happily playing in an underground baseball league, but when AutoAmerica faces ChinRussia in the Olympics, Gwen finds herself in dangerous territory, playing ball with the Netted even as her mother battles this apartheid-like society in court.

Excerpts-

  • From the book Part I

    A Girl with a Golden Arm

    As her parents, Eleanor and I should have known earlier. But Gwen was a preemie, to begin with. That meant oxygen at first and, after that, special checkups. And her early months were bumpy. She had jaundice; she had roseola; she had colic. She had a heart murmur. Things that I can now see distracted us—especially with the One Chance Policy, we were focused on her health to the exclusion of all else. For the Netted, it was different, of course, but for us Surplus, the limit was one pregnancy per couple, and Eleanor was just out of jail. Outside the house, she had a DroneMinder tracking her every move; the message was clear. She was not getting away with anything.

    And in any case, we loved Gwen and would never have wanted to replace her, worried though we were that she was delicate—that she might never consume the way she needed to, the way we all needed to. Not that charges of underconsumption couldn’t be fought in the courts. This was AutoAmerica, after all. For all the changes wrought by AI and Automation—now rolled up with the internet into the iBurrito we called Aunt Nettie—we did still have a Constitution. And if anyone could defend what was left of our rights, it was our own fierce Eleanor, of whom even the platoons of Canada geese who patrolled our neighborhood—the pit bulls, one might say, of the waddling world—were afraid. But as Eleanor’s incarceration brought home, these battles had a price, and in the meanwhile, even worrying and weighing the options distracted us from realizing other things—things we might have noticed a bit earlier, had Gwen had a sibling. It is so hard for a new parent to imagine a child any different from the one he or she has—children do so have their own gravity. They are their own normal.

    And so it is only now that we can see there were signs. All children take what’s in their crib and throw it, for example. It is universal. But Gwen threw her stuffed animals straight through her bedroom doorway. They shot out, never so much as grazing the door frame, and they always hit the wall of the staircase across from her bedroom at a certain spot, with the precise force they needed to bounce forward and drop clean down to the bottom of the stairwell. Was she maybe two when she did this? Not even, although she was already a southpaw. And already she seemed to have unusually long arms and long fingers—or so I remember remarking one day, not that Eleanor and I had so many babies on which to base our comparison. Ours was just an impression. But it was a strong impression. Her fingers were long. I remember, too, having to round up a veritable menagerie on the landing before I could start up the stairs. The stuffed hippo, the stuffed tiger, the three or four stuffed dogs, the stuffed orca and toucan and platypus and turtle—I gathered them all into my arms like the storybook zookeeper of some peaceable kingdom. It was as if I, too, ought by rights to have been made of plush. Of course, our house was automated—as all Surplus houses were required to be, by law—and the animals could easily have been clear-floated. All I had to do was say the word and the HouseBots would emerge from their closets, their green appendages poised to help. Clear-float now? Aren’t those animals in your way? And, We can roll’n’clear if you’d prefer. You have a choice. You always have a choice—the choice business being a new feature of the program. A bit of cyber-ingratiation, you might say, to balance its more habitual cyber-intimidation. If you trip, it will be your own fault, for example. And, Do note...

About the Author-

  • GISH JEN is the author of four previous novels, a story collection, and two works of nonfiction. Her honors include the Lannan Literary Award for fiction and the Mildred and Harold Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She delivered the William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in American Studies at Harvard University. She teaches from time to time in China and otherwise lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 18, 2019
    A prodigious young athlete fights the oppression and poverty of her social class in this shrewd and provocative near-future novel from Jen (World and Town). In AutoAmerica, the Netted rule over an underclass called the Surplus, who receive Basic Income but aren’t allowed to work and are denied basic human rights. Seventeen-year-old Gwen, a member of the Surplus and a star player in the Underground Baseball League, is tired of her oppressive life and wants to rise to the Netted class. She gets her chance when the Netted recruit her to help beat ChinRussia. Gwen faces a crisis of conscience as she looks back on those she would leave behind, including her friend Ondi, once banished for a month for sharing forbidden content on the internet, and her father, Grant (also the narrator), who intersperses anecdotes of brutal punishments faced by fellow members of their rank throughout. By placing the narration in Grant’s measured, ironic voice, Jen shows how the Netted accomplished their subtle, Huxleyian takeover through bigotry and technology. While some of Jen’s fans might miss the overt humor of her previous work, her intelligence and control shine through in a chilling portrait of the casual acceptance of totalitarianism.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from December 1, 2019
    Subtle dystopian fiction from the author of World and Town. It's the not-too-distant future, and the United States has become AutoAmerica. The citizenry has been divided into the Netted and the Surplus. The job of the former is to rule, while the primary function of the latter is to consume. These are new social classes, but, as Grant, the narrator, notes, they look a lot like the old social classes. The Netted are "angelfair." Grant is "coppertoned," and his services as a professor are no longer needed. Eleanor, his "spy-eyed" wife, is still practicing law, though, mostly fighting on behalf of the oppressed; when the novel begins, she has just been released from prison. What's most remarkable about the worldbuilding here is that the sense of horror that suffuses so much dystopian fiction is absent. Grant's tone is wryly matter-of-fact--perhaps because, as a dark-skinned person, he never took the freedoms and opportunities he once had for granted. And, really, the totalitarian country he describes is entirely believable. It's not the product of a single cataclysmic event. It is, instead, the result of a million seemingly inconsequential actions, the cumulative effect of citizens giving away little pieces of their agency every time they choose convenience over autonomy. But life changes for Grant's family when the government decides to resurrect the sport of baseball, because it happens that his daughter, Gwen, is a pitching prodigy who has spent her childhood honing her skills in an underground league. Baseball offers a way out and up for Gwen, but she's not sure that what she would gain is more valuable than what she would have to leave behind. The juxtaposition of America's pastime and the AI-enabled surveillance state Jen presents here is brilliant. Sports are a classic national obsession as well as an avenue to fame and success for the disenfranchised. In this sense, Gwen's story feels familiar, and the ease with which the reader identifies with this narrative helps to make everything else about AutoAmerica seem eerily familiar, too. We recognize the world Jen creates because it is, finally, nearly identical to our own. Beautifully crafted and slyly unsettling.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from January 1, 2020
    Gish Jen's stealthy wit lures us into contemplation of our worst failings and our saving graces. Here she imagines a dystopian AutoAmerica, where the Netted live productive if severely surveilled lives and the Surplus have lost jobs to automation or because they're designated Unretrainable, like Grant, a former professor and the novel's piquant narrator. Most Surplus in this flooded world are forced into Flotsam Towns, but Grant and his family?wife, Eleanor, a courageous attorney and survivor of government incarceration and torture, and teen daughter, Gwen?have a bossy AutoHouse and an actual garden. Like other resisters, they call the AI-ruled state Aunt Nettie in a wry play on Big Brother. And their strategic opposition to Aunt Nettie intensifies as Gwen grows into her preternatural gift: she has a powerful throwing arm. Baseball has been outlawed for the Surplus, so Grant and Eleanor launch the Underground Baseball League. But nothing goes undetected and soon star pitcher Gwen is being courted by Net U and lured to the other side. In this astutely realized and unnervingly possible depiction of a near-future world, Jen masterfully entwines shrewd mischief, knowing compassion, and profound social critique in a suspenseful tale encompassing baseball ardor, family love, newly insidious forms of racism and tyranny, and a wily and righteous resistance movement that declares "RIGHT MAKES MIGHT."(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from February 1, 2020

    This intriguing departure from Jen (World and Town) tells a dire tale of nonconformity in a world gone mad. Though preternaturally gifted at baseball, specifically pitching, young Gwen is part of the "Surplus," a mass of disenfranchised people living on the edges of a future society in AutoAmerica--an America that has embraced authoritarian automation, creating a class of haves, the "Netted," and have-nots, the "Surplus." The Surplus, deemed unemployable, can't work but must consume, including free food. Gwen's mother, Eleanor, has been persecuted by the government as a resister to the draconian laws and is currently suing the state to expose toxic agents in the free food. In this stark context, Gwen grows up playing baseball in secret, but when her talent is discovered, she is recruited by Net U, the university for the privileged. She reluctantly agrees to attend and has her moral and personal resolve severely tested. VERDICT Though her talent and aplomb win out in a satisfying conclusion, Gwen struggles with the inequality and oppression of AutoAmerica, and readers will be left wondering whether we are living in such a culture today. Highly recommended for discerning readers. [See Prepub Alert, 7/1/19.]--Henry Bankhead, San Rafael P.L., CA

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal

    September 1, 2019

    In a postapocalyptic AutoAmerica that's mostly flooded and ruled by the Internet ("Aunt Nettie") with a nasty brew of artificial intelligence, surveillance, and pious lecture, the fair-skinned "Netted" live on the high ground and the darker-skinned "Surplus" in the swamps or on the water. One Surplus girl, though, proves to be a baseball genius and is drafted to play for AutoAmerica as it reenters the Olympics, but her mother challenges the idea of her crossing over. From the multiply honored author of Typical American.

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House "The Resisters is palpably loving, smart, funny and desperately unsettling. The novel should be required reading for the country, both as a cautionary tale and because it is a stone-cold masterpiece. This is Gish Jen's moment. She has pitched a perfect game."
  • David Canfield, Entertainment Weekly "Compelling . . . A face-paced novel with exciting, poetic writing . . . Stands with the best of dystopian literature."
  • Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review) "A rabble-rousing tale with an ominous edge . . . The winning, suspenseful heart of the book is Gwen's resourceful action on the [baseball] field. Jen's jauntily sinister AutoAmerican argot is a continual pleasure as well. Best of all is her take on why even the ultimate surveillance society can't quite muffle the human spirit."
  • Kirkus Reviews (starred review) "[Gish Jen] has long had a feel for sweeping, subversive explorations of American life . . . As Jen reveals how America became AutoAmerica, one seemingly tiny but cumulatively fatal development at a time, she finds in baseball a compelling metaphor for a country that will always have something to prove."

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