Ha Jin, The Art of Fiction No. 202

The Paris Review excerpt 

 Jin was born in 1956 in Liaoning Province in northeast China, 
but he moved around as a young boy whenever his father, 
an officer in the Red Army, was posted to a new province. 
Jin was ten when Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolution,
 which shuttered schools across the country and enlisted
 Chinese youth in a campaign to eradicate intellectual diversity from the revolutionary landscape. 
For others of Jin’s generation, the trauma of the Cultural Revolution 
was the central event of a lifetime. Jin was less fazed: the experience of repression 
seems only to have made him hardier. 
 Jin came to the United States in 1985, on a student visa, to study 
American literature at Brandeis University. 
After his scholarship ran out a year later, he worked menial jobs—
as a night watchman, a custodian, and a busboy at a Friendly’s restaurant. 
After a year and a half, his wife Bian joined him in America, working various jobs and teaching herself
 English by watching soap operas. 
 Jin began writing seriously in English only after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, 
which he has called the beginning of his life as a writer—“the source of all the trouble.”
 He wrote his first English-language poem, “The Dead Soldier’s Talk,” 
for a poetry workshop at Brandeis. 
The professor, the poet Frank Bidart showed the poem to 
Jonathan Galassi, then the poetry editor of The Paris Review, 
who immediately accepted it for publication. 
With Bidart’s encouragement, Jin enrolled in the MFA program in fiction at Boston University. 
He went on to teach at Emory University in Atlanta, 
where he wrote the stories and novels that have earned him 
a PEN/Faulkner Award, the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, 
a Guggenheim fellowship, 
and the National Book Award.

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