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A Song Everlasting


A Song Everlasting

National Book Award winner Ha Jin knows something about what it’s like to be exposed to a new kind of freedom that separates one from their experiences in the land of their birth. Having come to the U.S. to continue his education after schools were shut down during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Jin has had enviable success as a writer and an academic. In his new novel, A SONG EVERLASTING, he explores the idea of home and belonging and what freedom means (especially to an artist). The story he creates is touching, thrilling and terrifying in equal measure.

Popular Chinese singer Yao Tian accepts a United States engagement and enjoys a full and successful tour throughout the lower 48 with his state-supported choir. As the tour winds down in New York, he fully expects to be heading back home to China. However, a surprise and lucrative private gig is offered, and Tian sees it as a chance to put some additional monies into his daughter’s college fund. Trouble arises when he returns to his homeland, where the authorities inform him that the sponsors of that event were supporters of Taiwan’s secession. They demand that he deliver a formal apology for his grave mistake, and his employer is ordered to take away his passport. Tian refuses and impulsively returns to New York, where he will look for support in protesting the government’s threat to his artistic integrity.

"A SONG EVERLASTING is another beautiful and timely work of fiction from Ha Jin. Be prepared for a gentle journey into a world of hope for all."

With help from an old school friend, Yabin, Tian finds new and better opportunities in the U.S. When he learns that he has been put on China’s government blacklist, it becomes clear that he may never be allowed to set foot on Chinese soil again. As his family asks him to come home, Tian realizes that he will have to denounce all of his new freedoms in order to do so. This new life is so inspiring, and his identity as a performer depends on his continued success.

A SONG EVERLASTING gives us a moving portrait of a man between homes and cultures, an impulsive decision that touches his art and all those who depend on him. What is the price of artistic freedom, or freedom in general? As our country debates these qualifications daily, Jin steps right into the madness with a protagonist for whom we feel fear, pity and hope.

There is no way, when determining a book’s release date, to know if the zeitgeist will be revolving around a satellite event or question that will relate directly to the work that an author has spent years writing and another year preparing for the marketplace. Jin, now an esteemed professor at Boston University, must have dedicated the last five years to exploring and feeling the barbs of the racist performance we’ve seen on our nation’s public stage. This book addresses, from the privileged and yet off-balance life of an artist, the question of whether or not one can belong to a nation that they find contestable, protestable and somewhat demeaning. The value system of one’s own life doesn’t always jibe with the spirit of one’s nation. But does it make that person less a citizen of that particular country? Jin and his protagonist would argue that it is perhaps in the inalienable right to speak one’s mind, especially through art, that the new beginnings of a world where all are welcome can be truly grasped.

Jin has written a novel that simply tells it like it is. We see Tian putting down new roots, making real money, and experiencing the kind of success for himself that he always wanted. A SONG EVERLASTING is neither histrionic nor does it reflect only the time in which it was written. It is the story of one man’s life, with occasional mentions of bigger world problems (like the threat to alter Obamacare), but it is by no means a treatise on the tortured political artist who is damned to exist outside the culture of his soul. Jin is careful about taking you through his story and making you care about him in a very personal way. Yes, Tian could be discussed as a symbol of so much more, but it is in the small details of his life that Jin best examines the real-life currency of one man’s decisions.

A SONG EVERLASTING is another beautiful and timely work of fiction from Ha Jin. Be prepared for a gentle journey into a world of hope for all.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on August 13, 2021

A Song Everlasting
by Ha Jin

  • Publication Date: July 27, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon
  • ISBN-10: 152474879X
  • ISBN-13: 9781524748791