by Ha Jin
Ha Jin left his native China in 1985 to attend Brandeis University. He
is the author of two books of poetry; two collections of stories, Ocean
of Words, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award in 1997, and Under
the Red Flag, which won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction
in 1996; and In the Pond, a novel. He lives near Atlanta, where
he is a professor of English at Emory University.
top of the page
Ha Jin: In His Own Words
I was born in mainland China, and grew up in a small rural town in Liaoning
Province. From the age of fourteen to nineteen I was a volunteer in the
People's Liberation Army, staying at the northeastern border between China
and the former Soviet Union. I began teaching myself middle and high-school
courses in my third year in the army. In my sixth year I decided to leave
the army and go to college. But colleges remained closed during the Cultural
Revolution, which continued when I was demobilized, so instead I worked
as a telegrapher at a railroad company for three years in Jiamusi, a remote
frontier city in the Northeast. During this time, I began to follow the
English learner's program, hoping someday to read Friedrich Engels' The
Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 in the English original.
In 1977 colleges reopened, and I passed the entrance exams and went to Heilongjiang
University in Harbin where I was assigned to study English, even though
this was my last choice for a major! I received a B.A. in English in 1981,
then studied American literature at Shandong University, where I received
an M.A. in 1984. The following year I came to the United States to do graduate
work at Brandeis University, from which I earned a Ph.D. in English in 1993.
In the meantime, I studied fiction writing at Boston University with the
novelists Leslie Epstein and Aharon Appelfeld.
After the Tiananmen massacre, I realized it would be impossible to write
honestly in China, so decided to immigrate. Unlike most exiled writers already
established in their native language, I had no audience in Chinese, and
so chose to write in English. To me, this meant much labor, some despair,
and also, freedom.
Currently I am an associate professor in English at Emory University. I've
published two volumes of poetry, Between Silences (University of
Chicago Press, 1990), and Facing Shadows (Hanging Loose Press, 1996),
and two books of short fiction, Ocean of Words (Zoland Books, 1996)
which received the PEN Hemingway Award, and Under the Red Flag (University
of Georgia Press, 1997), which received the Flannery O'Connor Award for
Short Fiction and was a finalist for the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Award.
My novella, In the Pond (Zoland Books, 1998), which was selected
as a best fiction book of 1998 by the Chicago Tribune. I've had short
stories included in The Best American Short Stories (1997 and 1999),
three Pushcart Prize anthologies, and Norton Introduction to Fiction
and Norton Introduction to Literature, among other anthologies.
Courtesy of Random House, Inc.
© Copyright 2013 by Ha Jin. Reprinted with permission by Pantheon. All rights reserved.
Click here now to buy this book from Amazon.
top of the page