Relational interracialism and the American dream of race in ha Jin's a free life

Sarah Yihsuan Tso*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Critical discussions in the new millennium have augured an interracial turn in both theories and literary scholarship. This paper argues that interracial harmony is the American dream of racial relationships that American writers, including Ha Jin, explore in literary narratives and poetry, and I will illustrate this American dream of interracial harmony with his novel A Free Life and examples from other novels and poems. Through four of John E. Farley's models of racial theories this paper analyzes collaborative interracial relationships in the division of labor, adoption, romance, and friendship in Ha Jin's novel A Free Life, while advancing a relational interracialism, a term I coined as a viable theoretical grappling with the subject of race between races. Relational interracialism studies the relationality between races and suggests that multiculturalism in practice can be revised so that interraciality is premised on interracial cooperation and cultural infiltration with conflicts constrained within a resolvable range. A Free Life starts constructing an American dream of modern human relations and emotions less in their contradictions than in their relationality in which cooperation and mutual infiltration supersede conflicts to define interraciality. Ha Jin in A Free Life, Nanjing Requiem, A Map of Betrayal, and poems and John Okada in No-No Boy paint a vision for the time to follow.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-48
Number of pages26
JournalTamkang Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Dec 1


  • A free life
  • Ha Jin
  • Interracial harmony
  • Relational interracialism
  • Transracial adoption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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