War Trash

War Trash

Large Print - 2005
Average Rating:
Rate this:
From the National Book Award-winning author of Waiting, here is his most ambitious work to date; a powerful, unflinching novel that opens a window on an unknown aspect of a little-known war--the experiences of Chinese POWs held by Americans during the Korean conflict--and paints an intimate story against a sweeping canvas of confrontation. Set in 1951 and based on historical accounts, War Trash takes the form of the memoir of Yu Yuan, a young Chinese army officer, a volunteer fighting unofficially in Korea when he is captured. Yu's fluency in English thrusts him into the role of unofficial interpreter in the psychological warfare--between the prisoners and their captors and between rival groups of prisoners--that defines the world of the POW camp. Yu's only allegiance is to his dream of returning home. But by the end of this unforgettable novel, the very concept of home will be more profoundly altered than Yu can even begin to imagine.
Publisher: Waterville, Me. : Thorndike Press, 2005, c2004.
ISBN: 9780786271887
Characteristics: 664 p. ;,23 cm.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

RogerDeBlanck Jun 30, 2018

War Trash is a remarkable piece of historical fiction examining the Korean War. Written as if it was a memoir from the experiences embodied through the character of Yuan Yan, the novel serves as testimony and history woven into a political statement condemning war. Yan narrates how he loyally serves the Chinese volunteer army, even though the soldiers stand no chance against the American forces that either kill or capture every Chinese infantryman. Once soldiers like Yan are taken as POWs, the Chinese Communist Party denounces them for not fighting to their deaths. Many of these Chinese POWs detest the Party and long to join the Nationalists and Chiang Ka-Shek in Taiwan, or Free China. Neither a Communist nor a Nationalist, Yan desires only to return home to mainland China to be with his aging mother and his beloved fiance. But within the political dynamics of the prison camps, he becomes trapped between either longing to repatriate back to China or joining the legions of Nationalists going to Taiwan. With heartbreaking emotion and touching depth, Jin captures the horror and confusion of war. He expertly covers every angle and each side of the issues of the war, and through Yan’s eyes he investigates the psychological and political terror of the POW camps. But Jin’s narrative never becomes belabored with obscure facts. Everything flows into a confluence as readers are pulled into this wrenching conflict with the lives of the characters. Yan’s endurance to survive insurmountable suffering gives the story hope among the madness. Jin has made an invaluable contribution to the literature of the Korean War. War Trash is a major achievement and ranks as Jin’s best work.

Oct 03, 2015

"In fact he too had been a mere pawn, not much different from any of us. He too was war trash."
Chinese-born Ha Jin's novel was a final for the Pulitzer prize and, along with "Waiting," is his most acclaimed book. Set during the Korean War, it's the story of a Chinese solider held as a POW by the Americans. While Jin ably captures the experience of prisoners, the book never fully engaged me.

Mar 23, 2015

The story of a Chinese soldier in American/Korean POW camp. It was well researched and felt like a real memoir rather than fiction. It seemed like a balanced picture of the situation acknowledging the corruption of the Chinese Nationalists, and the flaws of the Communists. Each side seemed to have their own positives and negatives with the ordinary citizens getting the worst of it no matter who is in charge. A good case for anarchism (no leaders).

Apr 18, 2014

a very good novel set in a prison camp during the Korean War, I feel it gives a good insight into what went on in the minds of those who fought against the west went on, and its' aftermath

Oct 30, 2010

It is a vividly story on what went on in the POW camp in Korean. The author articulated and interwoven the struggles in the camp and in the main character.

2/3 of the Chinese POWs elected to go to Taiwan at the end of the war.

Dec 06, 2007

Finalist of the 2005 Pulitzer prize for fiction.


Add a Quote

Sep 24, 2010

We thought we had come all the way to help the Koreans, but some of us had willy-nilly ended up their despoilers.

Sep 24, 2010

This will be the most crucial point in your lives, so please Keep your minds clear and don’t agree to return to the mainland. To tell the truth, if you yield to the Reds, they will practice the Policy of Three Heads on you. What’s that? you may wonder. Let me explain. First, they will nod their heads smiling at you. Second, the moment you leave the Neutral Zone and enter their territory, they will make you hang your heads to confess your ‘crimes.’ Third, when you have crossed the Yalu, they will chop off your heads. That’s their Three Heads Policy, which is already being implemented. Brothers and friends, don’t be taken in by them. Come join us. We’ll always treat you benevolently like blood siblings. With our joint effort we shall prevail and retake China.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at My Library

To Top