Ha Jin, the most critically successful native Chinese writer in the United States, was born in 1956 in Liaoning, China. He came to the United States in 1985 for graduate study at Brandeis University. When the Tiananmen massacre occurred in 1989, Jin decided to emigrate to the United States. He also is the author of books of poetry. All of his writings were first written in English, in large part, according to Jin, because he considers English much more flexible than written Chinese in terms of expression and diction.
Jin’s writing style is noted for its clarity, straightforwardness, and simplicity, and for its accurate depiction of complex emotions. His close attention to the minute details of everyday life has been frequently compared to the attention of nineteenth century novelists Charles Dickens and Honoré de Balzac. Jin’s works also show the strong stylistic and thematic influences of Russian writers Isaac Babel, Anton Chekhov, Nikolai Gogol, and Leo Tolstoy.
War Trash is a rare, historically accurate depiction of the lives of a group of Chinese POWs and their treatment by U.S. forces from 1951 to 1953 in the Korean War. The POW experience is shown through the perspective of Yu Yuan, a young soldier in the Chinese army. The novel is heavily researched, and Jin also relied upon his father’s memories of the war as well as his own experiences living for six months in a Korean village while serving in the People’s Liberation Army.
War Trash, however, is more than an account of a little-known chapter of an often-forgotten war. All of Jin’s fictional writings about China are political because he considers Chinese society to be one that is managed by the Chinese government. Therefore, his overarching theme has always been the conflict between ideological thinking and basic human drives and aspirations. In War Trash, this conflict is given a tight focus because of the political nature of war and the repatriation dilemma faced by Chinese...
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