Xuefei Jin, who writes under the pseudonym Ha Jin, was born in 1956 in Liaoning
Province in northern China. His father was a military officer. In 1969, at only
14 years of age, Ha Jin joined the People's Liberation Army based at the
northeastern border between China and the former Soviet Union. While in the army
he began teaching himself middle and high-school courses. After his military
service ended, he taught himself English while working the night shift as a
railroad telegrapher in Jiamusi, a remote frontier city in the Northeast. During
this time he followed the English learner's program, hoping "someday to read
Friedrich Engels' The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 in the
In 1977, when colleges reopened after the Cultural Revolution, he passed the entrance exams and was assigned to study English. Although this was his last choice for a major, Ha Jin received a B.A. from Heilongjiang University and a Masters in Anglo-American literature at Shandong University. He came to the United States in 1985 to do graduate work at Brandeis University, supporting himself as a busboy in a Chinese restaurant and as a night watchman in a factory.
In 1993 he earned a Ph.D. in English from Brandeis. He intended to return to China after completing his dissertation, but after watching televised coverage of the Tiananmen Square massacre, he and his wife decided to make a life with their son in the United States, and when Jin couldn't find teaching work, he turned to writing instead, eventually finding employment at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
He has published two collections of poetry, Between Silences (1990) and Facing Shadows (1996), and two collections of short fiction, Ocean of Words (1996), which received the PEN/Hemingway award, and Under the Red Flag (1997), which won the Flannery O'Connor Award. In the Pond was published in 1998. His novel Waiting won the National Book Award for fiction in 1999, as well as the PEN/Faulkner award. He has also written the story collection, The Bridegroom, which won the Asian American Literary Award, and the novels The Crazed and In the Pond. In 2004 he published War Trash; A Free Life followed in 2007. He lives in the Boston area and is a professor of English at Boston University.
This biography was last updated on 08/01/2011.
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