Beautiful Country By Qian Julie Wang
Book/Novel Author: Qian Julie Wang
Book/Novel Title: Beautiful Country
NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • A TODAY SHOW #READWITHJENNA BOOK CLUB PICK! • The moving story of anundocumented child living in poverty in the richest country in theworld—an incandescent debut from an astonishing new talent“Heartrending, unvarnished, and powerfully courageous,this account of growing up undocumented in America will never leaveyou.” —Gish Jen, author of The ResistersIn Chinese, the word for America, Mei Guo, translates directly to “beautiful country.” Yet when seven-year-old Qian arrives in New York City in 1994 full of curiosity, she is overwhelmed by crushing fear and scarcity. In China, Qian’s parents were professors; in America, her family is “illegal” and it will require all the determination and small joys they can muster to survive.In Chinatown, Qian’s parents labor in sweatshops. Instead of laughing at her jokes, they fight constantly, taking out the stress of their new life on one another. Shunned by her classmates and teachers for her limited English, Qian takes refuge in the library and masters the language through books, coming to think of The Berenstain Bears as her first American friends. And where there is delight to be found, Qian relishes it: her first bite of gloriously greasy pizza, weekly “shopping days,” when Qian finds small treasures in the trash lining Brooklyn’s streets, and a magical Christmas visit to Rockefeller Center—confirmation that the New York City she saw in movies does exist after all.But then Qian’s headstrong Ma Ma collapses, revealing an illness that she has kept secret for months for fear of the cost and scrutiny of a doctor’s visit. As Ba Ba retreats further inward, Qian has little to hold onto beyond his constant refrain: Whatever happens, say that you were born here, that you’ve always lived here.Inhabiting her childhood perspective with exquisite lyric clarity and unforgettable charm and strength, Qian Julie Wang has penned an essential American story about a family fracturing under the weight of invisibility, and a girl coming of age in the shadows, who never stops seeking the light.Read more
In her memoir, Qian Julie Wang tells us about her experience growing up as a Chinese immigrant in New York City in the 90s. Her family needed to flee the communist regime of Mao Zedong and tried to start a better life in the United States, but a life as an undocumented immigrant is never easy.Wang’s parents were highly educated in China and in America they had to work low-paying jobs, remaining in the “shadows”, always afraid that their illegal status would be known. Quinn and her family endured all kinds of hardships. This book was not an easy read. It broke my heart knowing they did not have enough to eat, and that living in poverty she used to go through the trash to find some toys she could play.Beautifully written, this memoir shows us how circumstances and environment directly impacts people’s lives, that once you are thrown in a unknown environment you simply get lost, do not know how to act, do not know what to do, do not know where you should start, letting your fears and insecurities take over.I really enjoyed reading this book. If you liked “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls, or “The Undocumented Americans” by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, or “Behold the Dreamers” by Imbolo Mbue, you will definitely like this one. I highly recommend it.
Whenever I hear about or read a story such as this, I always find myself asking the question, if I was uprooted and placed in a foreign country, with nothing, could I make it? Could I thrive? Realty is it is so hardto even begin to imagine this scenario that I have no idea how it would go, but somehow I cannot believe I would find a successful path. Which Is why the story of Qian Wang so remarkable. Told from the first person perspective, a now full grown Qian Wang goes back in time, to tell the story of her 7 year old self traveling to America to make a new life. You just want to reach through the pages and hug this little girl and tell her that everything will be ok. An inspiring story of strength and perseverance. A rounded tale that ranges from humorous to sad. I hope her story serves as an example for all those out there who have taken the chance, and risked it all for a life in this Beautiful Country. Thank you to netgalley for the copy in exchange for an honest review.
The way in which this memoirist learns to read English is just amazing, especially when I would have expected the school in Brooklyn to have provide English as a Second Language. She is seven years old when she arrives with her mother from China, her father having been here for about two years. Both parents had been college professors in their home country and outspoken about the government, enough so that they had to leave but without benefit of papers allowing them to live here legally. The memoir is really told from the point of view of the author during the first five years of her life here where the family of three had to live in a single room, an apartment shared by others, including the kitchen. The mother works stitching clothing in a horrid factory setting. The father has an even worse job. I like that we don’t get the parents’ points of view, that this is told from the young daughter’s. For those who are concerned about the memoir not covering more years, know this: in interviews she has said she will write the next years, but only when she feels ready to do so. There is good reason this memoir has become a NYTimes best seller. Because I have seen on YouTube some of her speaking engagements, I was surprised that she became a convert to Judaism. The liberal end of that theology.
I simply loved this book. It was engrossing, touching, heartbreaking–yet funny at times, important, beautifully written. . . . I either have to write volumes or stop with this–Qian Julie Wang is a gifted writer and her story is a rare treasure.
From a political refugee – I came to the USA from communist Czechoslovakia in 1981 with $600 for 4 people. No English, no accommodations, no work, nothing. Yet, I could NEVER write or create such a negative picture as the Beautiful Country Memoir. I love the USA despite our very difficult start. This book is so dark and so subjective, so much misinformation , almost unbelievable. Qian Julie Wang is intelligent and educated, how could she write such a negative dark book ? Very disappointed.
I enjoyed and learned a lot from hearing the other side that we never hear of. We never hear what these immigrants go through when they arrive. We never hear about their strength as they go through the system. I hope and pray this makes us kinder and more understanding to those in this situation. Thank you for writing this honest story of your childhood. We needed to hear this and you needed to tell it.