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Immigrant Struggles to Find Meaning in 'A Free Life'

Nov 4, 2007 (All Things Considered)

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When author Ha Jin immigrated to the United States 22 years ago, he sought freedom from the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution and service in the Red Army.

In his new novel, A Free Life, Ha Jin sheds light on his years of struggle in America through his protagonist, Nan Wu. Highly acclaimed for his novels set in China, including War Trash, and Waiting,which won the National Book Award in 1999, his seventh work is set in America, where Nan Wu searches for meaning in a brutally commercial world.

Nan Wu dreams of being a poet, but after he drops out of a Boston graduate school in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre, his dream begins to fade amid mortgage payments and family obligations. He and his wife, Pingping, buy a Chinese restaurant in suburban Atlanta and settle in to fulfill the American dream. But they soon find that freedom in the U.S. comes at a price.

Ha Jin spoke to Jacki Lyden about some of the parallels with his own life in A Free Life.

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