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A Map of Betrayal
Cover of A Map of Betrayal
A Map of Betrayal
A Novel
by Ha Jin
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A Christian Science Monitor Best Book of the Year

From the award-winning author of Waiting and War Trash: a riveting tale of espionage and conflicted loyalties that spans half a century in the entwined histories of two countries--China and the United States--and two families.

When Lilian Shang, born and raised in America, discovers her father's diary after the death of her parents, she is shocked by the secrets it contains. She knew that her father, Gary, convicted decades ago of being a mole in the CIA, was the most important Chinese spy ever caught. But his diary, an astonishing chronicle of his journey as a Communist intelligence agent, reveals the pain and longing that his double life entailed--and point to a hidden second family that he'd left behind in China. As Lilian follows her father's trail back into the Chinese provinces, she begins to grasp the extent of his dilemma: he is a man torn between loyalty to his motherland and the love he came to feel for his adopted country. She sees how his sense of duty distorted his life, and as she starts to understand that Gary too had been betrayed, Lilian finds that it is up to her to prevent his tragedy from endangering yet another generation of Shangs.

A stunning portrait of a multinational family and an unflinching inquiry into the meaning of citizenship, patriotism, and home, A Map of Betrayal is a spy novel that only Ha Jin could write.

From the Hardcover edition.
A Christian Science Monitor Best Book of the Year

From the award-winning author of Waiting and War Trash: a riveting tale of espionage and conflicted loyalties that spans half a century in the entwined histories of two countries--China and the United States--and two families.

When Lilian Shang, born and raised in America, discovers her father's diary after the death of her parents, she is shocked by the secrets it contains. She knew that her father, Gary, convicted decades ago of being a mole in the CIA, was the most important Chinese spy ever caught. But his diary, an astonishing chronicle of his journey as a Communist intelligence agent, reveals the pain and longing that his double life entailed--and point to a hidden second family that he'd left behind in China. As Lilian follows her father's trail back into the Chinese provinces, she begins to grasp the extent of his dilemma: he is a man torn between loyalty to his motherland and the love he came to feel for his adopted country. She sees how his sense of duty distorted his life, and as she starts to understand that Gary too had been betrayed, Lilian finds that it is up to her to prevent his tragedy from endangering yet another generation of Shangs.

A stunning portrait of a multinational family and an unflinching inquiry into the meaning of citizenship, patriotism, and home, A Map of Betrayal is a spy novel that only Ha Jin could write.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One The spring semester started on February 15 at Beijing Teachers College. In my American history class, a survey course for undergrads, six or seven students were from Hong Kong and Taiwan. They didn't stand out among their peers except that they spoke English better, not because they were smarter or better at memorizing the vocabulary and expressions but because they'd begun to learn the language in their childhood. Twenty years ago it had been unimaginable that such students would go to college in China. I gave lectures in a large room with sloped seating, and the class was always well attended. I noticed that many students were taking the course mainly to learn English, since they planned to go abroad for professional school or graduate work. One girl, an anthropology major, told me that her parents would pay for her tuition and living expenses if she was admitted by a decent graduate program in the States. I asked what her parents meant by a "decent" program, and she said, "At least a state's flagship university, like Rutgers or UMass-Amherst. Any of the UC schools would be great too." I was impressed by her parents' savvy about American universities.

    Many Chinese had quite a bit of cash now, in part because they spent mainly on food and didn't pay property taxes. Of course, if you stepped off campus, you would encounter all kinds of people who struggled to scrape together a living. Not far from the school's main entrance there was a job agency beside a billboard that advertised shampoo. Under the gargantuan ad, which displayed a charming female face smiling over a bottle spouting pink bubbles, migrant workers, young men and women who had just arrived from the countryside, would gather in the mornings, waiting to be picked up as day laborers or temporary hands who made five or six dollars a day. Some of them smoked and wisecracked, and some stared at the ground. If you went to the train or bus stations, you'd find people lolling around, and some of them were homeless.

    I was also teaching a graduate seminar and met a group of fourteen students once a week for three hours. We discussed issues in Asian American history and culture. I'd taught both courses numerous times and could do them without much preparation, so I had a lot of time for my personal project of reconstructing my father's story. These days Beijing's atmosphere was tense because the government was nervous about the popular democratic movements in the Mideast and Africa. But on campus people could talk freely in private. I told a few colleagues about the impasse in my personal investigation. One of them was in the Philosophy Department, Professor Peng, an older man I had known for many years; he said I shouldn't give up the hope of locating Bingwen Chu. Professor Peng believed we could track Chu down if he was still alive. Chu used to work in the Ministry of National Security, which must have a file on him. Given his age, he must have retired long ago, so there should be no rule forbidding him to meet with me. Professor Peng said that a former student of his was working in that ministry and might be able to help me. He called the young man, a junior official, and told me to go see him.

    I went to the headquarters of the Ministry of National Security, which was a brownish seven-story building encircled by a high black steel fence. The sentry at the front gate phoned my contact inside, and the young official strolled out to meet me. He had a soft-skinned face and an urbane demeanor. I told him I was looking for an uncle of mine, which was true in a sense since Bingwen Chu had been my father's longtime friend of some kind. I showed him Chu's snapshot, which I had Xeroxed from The Chinese...
About the Author-
  • HA JIN left his native China in 1985 to attend Brandeis University. He is the author of six novels, four story collections, three volumes of poetry, and a book of essays. He has received the National Book Award, two PEN/Faulkner Awards, the PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award, the Asian American Literary Award, and the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction. In 2014 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Ha Jin lives in the Boston area and is a professor of English at Boston University.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from August 25, 2014
    From the National Book Award– and PEN/Faulkner-winning author Jin (Waiting) comes a woman’s inquisition into the limits of her father’s loyalty to his nation and family. The narrative alternates between the present day and the years spanning 1949 to 1989. In the present, American-born Lillian Shang unravels her father Gary’s mysterious life as a U.S.-based Chinese spy feeding information to the Mao administration. She pieces together his evolution from student, to spy, then prisoner—he ultimately ended up being a high-profile mole caught by the CIA. Lillian undertakes her research primarily through Gary’s extensive diaries, bequeathed to Lillian by his longtime mistress. Gary’s story is too messy for journalistic prose alone, so Lillian travels to northeast China to connect with his other family. In doing so, she sees the pervasive duplicity that defined Gary’s life abroad; his family members know little about what’s happened to him since leaving decades before. When Lillian’s husband is embroiled in a dubious microchip scheme with a newly acquainted Chinese cousin, the FBI materializes and Lillian must evaluate whether to respond with familial fidelity or self-preservation. Jin’s subtle prose entrances; he divulges information measuredly, almost reluctantly. The result is a captivating tale that probes the Chinese political state over the past half century.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from September 1, 2014
    A plainspoken, even reticent narrative illuminates the complex loyalties of a Chinese-American spy, who considers himself a patriot of both countries. As a novel of espionage, the latest from the prizewinning author (Waiting, 1999, etc.) satisfies like the best of John le Carre, similarly demystifying and deglamorizing the process of gathering information and the ambiguous morality that operates in shades of gray. But it's plain that this novel is about more than the plight of one spy, who must forsake his Chinese family in order to embed himself as a master translator for the CIA, becoming "China's ear to the heartbeat of the United States." In the process, he starts a second family, which knows nothing about the first, raising a daughter with his Irish-American wife. He also has a mistress, a Chinese-American woman to whom he relates and responds in the way he can't with his American wife and to whom he entrusts his diaries. Thus, the issues of love and loyalty that permeate the novel aren't merely political, but deeply personal. Narrating the novel is Lilian Shang, a scholar and the adult daughter of the late Gary Shang, convicted of treason in America, abandoned by his Chinese handlers, who receives the diaries from his lifelong mistress. Chapters in which Lilian learns about her father's first family in China and attempts to connect with them and bridge their related pasts alternate with chapters from Gary's perspective, in which he leaves his homeland and his family and earns (and betrays?) the trust of his adopted country, one in which the freedom of jazz and the mournful tone of Hank Williams speak to him deeply. "The two countries are like parents to me," he insists at his trial. "They are like mother and father, so as a son I can't separate the two and I love them both." Lilian ultimately discovers that such conflicting loyalties run deep in the bloodlines of her extended family. Subtle, masterful and bittersweet storytelling that operates on a number of different levels.

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    June 1, 2014
    After her parents' deaths, Lilian Shang unearths the diary of her Chinese-born father, a CIA agent convicted many years previously of spying for China. Through the diary, Lilian follows her father's difficult journey from 1949 Shanghai to Okinawa to America and learns of yet another duplicity: unknown to her or her Irish American mother, he had another family in China, long since left behind. She also comes to understand that despite his loyalty to China, her father had come to love his adopted country. What price duty? You can expect an elegant answer from this multi-award-winning author.

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Yvonne Zipp, The Christian Science Monitor "[A] heartbreaking portrait of a spy torn between two countries. . . . . Poignant. . . . Spare yet powerful."
  • Steph Cha, Los Angeles Times "With a National Book Award, two PEN/Faulkners and a Pulitzer nomination under his belt, Ha Jin is one of America's most decorated living novelists. He's made a name for himself writing beautiful stories centered in China, where he was born and raised. . . . In a way, A Map of Betrayal is an innovative twist on an immigrant novel, exploring themes of identity, assimilation and confused loyalties through the high-stakes narrative of a spy novel. . . . A poignant novel that portrays the emotional drama of an immigrant torn apart by conflicting loyalties and 'bone-deep loneliness.' 'If only he could become a citizen of both countries, a man of the world,' comes Gary's lament. He may be a traitor and a superspy, but his tragedy is relatable, almost simple. It should strike many close to home."
  • Nick DiMartino, Shelf Awareness "A lonely Chinese spy is forced to leave his young wife and remarry in the U.S. in this compassionate study of a man caught between two wives and two countries. . . . Jin quietly piles up facts, creating an impossible situation in which a good, patriotic man becomes emotionally entangled with two nations intent on deceiving each other. A confident and knowledgeable explicator of China, Jin probes the failure of the Great Leap Forward, the inequity between country Chinese and city Chinese, Internet censorship, the national problems of food contamination and the illiteracy of more than half the population, while placing historical touches throughout (such as the Russian astronaut dog Laika and the Kennedy assassination). . . . Written without the slightest whiff of melodrama, in a cool, factual, unadorned style, A Map of Betrayal is a quietly humane, painstakingly detailed portrait of an idealistic man who tries to set himself morally apart. Ever present in this dense,...
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