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The Resource A free life, Ha Jin

A free life, Ha Jin

A free life
A free life
Statement of responsibility
Ha Jin
  • "We follow the Wu family - father Nan, mother Pingping, and son Taotao - as they fully sever their ties with China in the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and begin a new, free life in the United States." "At first, their future seems assured - Nan's graduate work in political science at Brandeis University would guarantee him a teaching position in China - but after the fallout from Tiananmen, Nan's disillusionment turns him toward his first love, poetry. Leaving his studies, he takes on a variety of menial jobs while Pingping works for a wealthy widow as a cook and housekeeper. As Nan struggles to adapt to a new language and culture, his love of poetry and literature sustains him through difficult, lean years."
  • "Nan moves from Boston to New York to Atlanta, ever in search of financial stability and success, even in a culture that sometimes feels oppressive and hostile. As Pingping and Taotao slowly adjust to American life, Nan still feels a strange, paradoxical attachment to his homeland, though he violently disagrees with Communist policy. And severing all ties - including his love for a woman who rejected him in his youth - proves to be more difficult than he could ever have imagined."--BOOK JACKET
Writing style
  • Booklist Editors' Choice, 2007.
  • New York Times Notable Book, 2007
  • Ha Jin, who emigrated from China in the aftermath of Tiananmen Square, had only been writing in English for 12 years when he won the National Book Award for Waiting in 1999. His latest novel sheds light on an émigré writer’s woodshedding period. It follows the fortunes of Nan Wu, who drops out of a U.S. grad school after the repression of the democracy movement in China, hoping to find his voice as a poet while supporting his wife, Pingping, and son, Taotao. After several years of spartan living, Nan and Pingping save enough to buy a Chinese restaurant in suburban Atlanta, setting up double tensions: between Nan’s literary hopes and his career, and between Nan and Pingping, who, at the novel’s opening, are staying together for the sake of their young boy. While Pingping grows more independent, Nan—amid the dulling minutiae of running a restaurant and worries about mortgage payments, insurance and schooling—slowly snuffs the torch he carries for his first love. That Nan at one point reads Dr. Zhivago isn’t coincidental: while Ha Jin’s novel lacks Zhivago ’s epic grandeur, his biggest feat may be making the reader wonder whether the trivialities of American life are not, in some ways, as strange and barbaric as the upheavals of revolution. (Nov.) --Staff (Reviewed July 23, 2007) (Publishers Weekly, vol 254, issue 29, p40)
  • /* Starred Review */ "Crossing over from China to America" describes not only the theme behind this latest work from National Book Award—winning author Ha (Waiting ) but also his own transition as a storyteller as he breaks away from novels based in China and sets this work in the United States. Keeping to his use of strong male protagonists, Jin opens with Nan Wu, who, with wife Pingping, is reunited for the first time in three years with six-year-old son, Taotao (he's just been flown to the United States from China). Opening in 1989 and spanning nearly a decade, the novel is divided into six parts and multiple brief chapters that follow the Wu family's fierce determination to make a better life for themselves. Though living the "American dream," Jin's characters, as in his other novels, are not without conflict. Nan, for instance, struggles with his passion to become a successful author even as he works to support his family. Transitioning his characters from Chinese immigrants to Chinese Americans, Jin takes his writing to a new level as he skillfully crafts an ambitiously angst-filled yet masterly tale of assimilation overflowing with both heart and culture. Highly recommended for public and academic library fiction and Asian American fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/07.]—Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA --Shirley N. Quan (Reviewed August 15, 2007) (Library Journal, vol 132, issue 13, p67)
  • A Chinese immigrant family's experience of 1990s America is treated at epic length in this heartfelt new novel from the NBA-winning author of Waiting (1999).Following the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, Nan Wu, seeking a better life for his wife Pingping and their son Taotao, precedes them to America, where he briefly studies political science before realizing he must abandon his ambition of living as a poet and novelist and provide for his family—who join him four years later as live-in household staff for a wealthy woman residing in the Boston area. Over the next decade, Nan moves in and out of U.S. literary circles (encountering, among others, Allen Ginsberg–like confrontational poet Sam Fisher), but finds neither satisfactory outlets for his creative energies nor relief from longing for the woman he didn't marry—all the while subsisting in a companionable, though not loving marriage, and enduring the trials of fatherhood, as Taotao struggles through assimilation and adolescence. The family moves to an Atlanta suburb, operating then purchasing a thriving restaurant, and appear, at last, "Americanized." But Nan's conflicted relationships with fellow Chinese-Americans who profess a love for their homeland that he cannot share erodes his energies and keeps him suspended between freedom and tyranny, the workaday world and the ideal realm of literature. The author's trademark clarity produces numerous lucid, moving scenes, and the gathering weight of the struggles endured by the Wus seizes the reader's attention. But the book's amplitude is unselective. When it ends with extracts from Nan's "Poetry Journals" and 30-plus pages of his deeply autobiographical poems (a blatant echo of Doctor Zhivago, one of Nan's favorite books), we realize that these concluding pages tell his story far more succinctly than do the bloated 600 pages that precede it.A book that has obviously been labored over, yet still feels inchoate and unfocused. (Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2007)
Jin, Ha
no index present
Literary form
  • Poetry
  • Chinese
  • Immigrants
  • Poets

Library Locations

    • Lionel Bowen Library and Community CentreBorrow it
      669-673 Anzac Parade, Marouba, NSW, 2035, AU
      -33.938111 151.237977
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