Open City: Blogging Urban Change
Questions for Ha Jin
By Deanna Fei


Ha Jin, award-winning author of A Good Fall (Photo courtesy of Ha Jin)

In a recent post, “Finding Flushing in the Stories of Ha Jin,” I wrote about the particular pleasure of reading about my hometown in A Good Fall, a recent collection by the National Book Award-winning author of Waiting. Later this week, I’m meeting Ha Jin at the Flushing Library for lunch and a walk around the neighborhood. And for today, here’s a little Q&A about his impressions of Flushing.

Q: How did you first encounter Flushing, and what were your first impressions?

HJ: A Chinese-language newspaper, World Journal, invited me to a conference in February 2005. It was held in downtown Flushing.  That was first I went there.  I was very moved by the bustling streets and realized that many American towns must have started this way.

Q: How did Flushing become the setting for your short story collection A Good Fall?

HJ: For years I had planned to write a collection of short stories about the immigrant experience, but I had no idea where to set them.  On my first visit to Flushing, it flashed through my mind that this was the place for my stories.  Of course, some of the stories in A Good Fall are based on real happenings and people that were in Flushing. I tried to make the book into stories of the community.

Q: How did you conduct research for those stories? Was there a method to your exploration of the area?

HJ: I just went there to get familiar with the place and people, also to find details.  I visited Flushing more than twenty times while working on the stories.  I didn’t interview anyone and mainly walked around, observing and listening.

Q: How do you compare Flushing to Manhattan’s Chinatown? What about Brooklyn’s Chinatown?

HJ: I have never been to Brooklyn’s Chinatown.  The old Chinatown in Manhattan feels kind of dormant. In a way, Flushing’s Chinatown is also a Korean Town, and it is nicknamed Little Taipei, a very colorful place.

Q. What changes have you noticed in the years that you’ve been visiting the neighborhood?

HJ: There are more tourists now and more residential buildings, small red brick buildings.

Q: What are some of your favorite things about Flushing? And least favorite?

HJ: You can find good Chinese bookstores and all kinds of genuine local Chinese foods.  For an immigrant, Flushing is less difficult place to live, but in the long run, it can trap you.  You can get around without speaking English at all.  This is both good and bad, especially for young people.

Do you have a question for Ha Jin? Write them in the Comments section below and I’ll pass them on.

2 Responses to Questions for Ha Jin

  1. Looking forward to reading A Good Fall! Some question for Ha Jin:

    How are the Chinese immigrants arriving in the U.S. today different from those who arrived 10 or 20 years ago? Has the immigrant experience changed?

    When you made your research trips to Flushing, did you take the Chinatown bus?

  2. Pingback: Open City: Blogging Urban Change » Archive » Lunch with Ha Jin in Flushing

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About Open City
Open City: Blogging Urban Change is an interdisciplinary neighborhood blog and community project coordinated by the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Five commissioned writers, called Organizing Fellows, are working with community organizations and neighborhood folks in Manhattan’s Chinatown/Lower East Side (LES), Flushing, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn to collect oral histories and interviews, offer commentary about gentrification, neighborhood change, and produce new creative work around these themes. Read more.
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CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities was formed in 1986 (formerly known as the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence) as a response to an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes both in New York City and around the country (which included violence by police officers against Asians).
They have two offices – one in Manhattan’s Chinatown (which houses the Chinatown Tenants Union, and the new Asian Youth in Action organizing project) and the Youth Leadership Project office in the Bronx – and have members from all over the city. Over the years, CAAAV’s main campaigns have focused on community-based organizing work rooted in Asian immigrant and refugee communities. Although their advocacy and organizing work is focused mainly in Manhattan’s Chinatown and the northwest Bronx, CAAAV’s work also touches upon larger issues (such as affordable housing, war, and immigration) shaping communities all over the world: “Our work is primarily centered around issues facing New Yorkers, but always with a global analysis.”
CAAAV’s mission is to organize and build the power of working-class Asian immigrants, refugees, and youth to change concrete conditions and participate in a broader social justice movement. In the past, CAAAV’s work included organizing South Asian taxi drivers, Korean women workers, and Filipina domestic workers. Several of these organizing projects have gone on to become their own organizations, such as the New York Taxi Workers Alliance and Domestic Workers United. CAAAV’s current work focus on three different program areas: Read more.

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