Ha Jin

THE READ: We Are the World
February 09, 2010

A few years ago, the Mexican literary magazine Letras Libres asked me to write an essay about major trends in the last decade of American literature. The more I thought about what such trends might be, the less convinced I became that there even was such a thing as “American literature” anymore. The books that had interested me most in the late 1990s and early 2000s were by writers who were emigrants or members of minority ethnic groups: Ha Jin, Jhumpa Lahiri, Edwidge Danticat, Nathan Englander.

Exile On Main street
December 24, 2008

A Free Life, which appeared last year, is an epic work, with a panoramic vision whose narrative form resembles a hefty, plot-driven nineteenth-century English novel. Nan Wu, a student who is pursuing graduate work in political science at Brandeis University, and his wife Pingping become disillusioned with the prospect of returning to their homeland in the wake of Tiananmen Square. Nan decides to abandon his studies and instead to nurture his love of poetry, and to this end he takes a series of menial jobs while his wife remains a housekeeper and cook to a wealthy American widow.