After growing up between two cultures, you have devoted your career to exploring that landscape through the lens of fiction. The novels Typical American, Mona in the Promised Land, The Love Wife, and World and Town present, often with humor, characters pulled both east and west as they work out for themselves what it means to be from neither and from both. You have been especially focused on the personal, social, and political effects of the interplay between the individual and the collective, and in how people with different world views learn to hear each other, or not. Your short fiction, collected under the title Who’s Irish? has attained similar acclaim, being included in the series The Best American Short Stories and chosen by John Updike for The Best American Short Stories of the Century. You are a generous contributor to national dialogues through frequent writing for newspapers and magazines as well as the book Tiger Writing: Art, Culture, and the Interdependent Self, based on the series of Massey Lectures you were invited to give at Harvard. You have received a Lannan Literary Award and a Mildred and Harold Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. There is that word again: “American.” Your work is now read in American studies programs across the country—aptly so as it shows us, or perhaps reminds us, that American life is lived most genuinely on the personal and culture frontier.
I hereby declare you recipient of the honorary degree Doctor of Letters, entitled to all the rights, honors, and privileges appertaining thereto.
June 7, 2015