[Queens, stand up]
In his latest short-story collection, “A Good Fall,” Ha Jin continues his skillful and deeply felt exploration of immigrant conflicts. He focuses on a socioeconomically diverse cast of characters mostly living or working in the Queens, N.Y., neighborhood of Flushing. They include a healthcare aide trying to fend off advances from an old man with dementia without losing her job (“A Pension Plan”), a private SAT tutor embroiled in an inadvertent love triangle with his female student and her mother (“Choice”) and a professor worried that a single misspelled word on his application will doom his tenure chances (“An English Professor”). A pervasive anxiety infects these lives. For these newcomers, both relationships and jobs seem precious, precarious things, often tied to one another, sometimes hanging by a thread.
more of the review, here. and this next—
Jin, who has set seven of his nine works of fiction in Asia, chose to meet in Flushing because that is the setting for the stories in his new collection, A Good Fall—fresh territory for the author, who has placed his characters on U.S. soil only once before, in his most recent novel, A Free Life. The Flushing Main Street that appears in his pages is less a portrait of specific venues and more an evocation of a state of being—that of immigrants tethered to an insular community. Jin wants to take me to a Sichuan restaurant he likes that is always full of recent arrivals, but it’s not yet open for lunch. We settle on a diner nearby that serves milder Shanghai cuisine, though we’re both craving something spicier…Jin discovered the neighborhood in 2005, when he stayed at the Sheraton for a conference. He was immediately intrigued by Flushing’s microcosmic nature, as opposed to Manhattan’s more tourist-driven Chinatown. The Chinese population here is so self-contained that residents never need to learn English. It’s a blessing and a curse for arrivals, as well as rich material for a writer, and Jin uses it to harrowing effect in A Good Fall.
is a profile of Jin. A Good Fall is new in paperbook, and if you’re picking it up, I suggest you also read his Waiting.
That book stays in my mind.