Beautiful Country left me in tears. It's a heartbreaking, powerful, and ultimately hopeful memoir. The hardships Qian Julie Wang went through as such a young child living as an undocumented immigrant in the United States can be painful to read, but it's something many Americans need to hear. The author's clear voice and astonishing self-awareness keep you turning the pages, even as she unearths trauma after trauma. If you have any doubt that immigrants make our country more beautiful, please read this book. If you already know that, my request remains: please read this book. Recommended By Leah B., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A New York Times Best Seller — The moving story of an undocumented child living in poverty in the richest country in the world — an incandescent debut from an astonishing new talent — A Today Show #Readwithjenna Pick
In 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.
"Engaging readers through all five senses and the heart, Wang's debut memoir is a critical addition to the literature on immigration as well as the timeless category of childhood memoir." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"While Wang's story...is undoubtedly timeless, it's her family's triumph in the face of "xenophobia and intolerance" that makes it feel especially relevant today. Consider this remarkable memoir a new classic." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"The writing is sparse, stylish, sometimes harrowing and sometimes humorous as she narrates experiences that are incredibly common but rarely captured with this level of artful control." Bookpage (Starred Review)
"Beautiful Country rings with power and authenticity. Wang's searing exploration reveals how she and her family were forced to navigate the yawning cracks in the American Dream. An eloquent, thought-provoking and touching memoir." Jean Kwok, author of Girl in Translation and Searching for Sylvie Lee
About the Author
Qian Julie Wang is a graduate of Yale Law School and Swarthmore College. She is managing partner of Gottlieb & Wang LLP, an educational civil rights law firm, and her writing has appeared in major publications such as the New York Times and the Washington Post. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their two rescue dogs, Salty and Peppers.