Reviews

Beautiful Country, by Qian Julie Wang (王乾)

tori016's review against another edition

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dark emotional sad slow-paced

4.25

toosexyformyshelf's review against another edition

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emotional funny hopeful informative inspiring slow-paced

4.0

Beautiful Country tells the story of Qian, who immigrates to the United States as a young girl with her parents. Qian must learn English informally, through books and TV shows, as well as at school. Qian attends a school where a majority of the children are Chinese, but rather than speaking Mandarin like Qian, they speak Cantonese. This difference adds to Qian’s feelings of isolation. However, Qian soon masters the language, and becomes incredibly street savvy. She soon begins taking the subway from school to the sweat shops on her own to work alongside Mama and Baba, her parents, as they try different fields. The common thread is that no matter where they work, Qian must witness their mistreatment and discrimination. The family also struggles with fierce homesickness, and often question why they do not return to China, where her parents were lauded for their educational accomplishments that count for nothing in the United States. Despite the adversity she faces, Qian keeps dreaming and does not give up hope that she can achieve her goals. 


This was a deeply layered memoir. The author’s use of detail to create an image of young Qian’s world was impeccable. She creates so much meaning out of the small moments that define her life. I only wish we could have seen more of Qian’s reflections and commentary as an adult. While the story telling was flawless, I wanted to feel more of her perspective shine through. 

invaderlinz's review

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challenging emotional funny hopeful inspiring reflective sad tense fast-paced

4.75

annexelizabeth's review against another edition

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dark emotional hopeful reflective medium-paced

4.5

lyrical and heartbreaking. this memoir is beautifully written and painfully honest about the realities of poverty, immigration, and the pains of coming of age, and i am glad that i read it. qian julie wang writes with emotional clarity and vivid detail, and the people and places and things in these years of her childhood are rendered in exquisite detail. she paints her mother and father in particular in a lens that is both loving and critical, something that i really appreciated. the final chapter of this memoir did feel a little bit rushed, but honestly that's my only criticism of this book. overall, i really loved it and count it as a new favorite

hyacinth_18's review

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challenging emotional funny inspiring reflective medium-paced

5.0

Genuinely a 5 star book. I was hesitant on reading this autobiography because sometimes the author ends up being pitiful and aren't as willing to display their faults and flaws. Qian Julie Wang has written a beautiful memoir on her life that's both riveting and reflective. Growing up in an immigrant family I can definitely relate to the struggles of having enough money to get by in life and finding myself. It was an amazing read and I found myself entranced by her story, picking out lessons that I shall treasure forever. By reading this memoir I feel inspired to step out of the shadows and into the light. To be myself. I wish that many more publications from Wang will come and they're even better than her first novel. 

pamnesty's review

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inspiring reflective sad medium-paced

4.5

laynedw's review

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4.0

recommended by christine <3

rsopher's review against another edition

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emotional hopeful reflective sad medium-paced

3.0

liralen's review

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4.0

Wang moved to New York as a young child, too young to understand the full background of her parents' decisions but old enough to understand the consequences. Hers was a shadow life: constantly alert for the dangers of authorities who might deport them; slipping between school and sweatshop and increasingly unhappy home. Her parents moved for a better life, but they knew that 'better' was in the far-off future, perhaps not until Wang herself was an adult.
Our new home was a little bigger, a little brighter, a little safer. It was on the first floor of a two-story house that was laid out as if on a railroad track, one long skinny line, with windows on one side only. Our landlords, a gentle couple with two sons around my age, lived on the entire second floor. They could afford the home because, as Ma Ma leaned over to whisper to me after our first meeting, they were among the workers in the sweatshops who sewed buttons, and they had been in America so long that both their sons had been born here. This gave me hope. Perhaps by the time I had my own children—who would be real, true Americans—I might be able to afford to live on an entire floor of a house. (114)
That's what poverty and disenfranchisement does to a child: makes her dream of a better position in a sweatshop someday. It's impossible not to see the sacrifice in Wang's parents decisions, not just on their part but on Wang's.

Beautiful Country hews closely to those early childhood years in New York, when Wang was scouring the sidewalks with her parents for cast-offs they could use at home (must be light enough to carry home, must be useful, must not be so precious that it could not be left behind); when she was placed in a Special Ed class because her teacher didn't want to deal with her lack of English; when illness wiped out her family's savings and her parents' marriage floundered and her mother—who had advanced degrees—worked in sweatshop after sweatshop to try to keep a roof over their head. The book ends fairly abruptly, just as Wang's transition to the next stage of her life (no spoilers here) must have gone, and I wonder whether at some point down the line we'll see a follow-up.

magsrreads's review

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5.0

Incredible; Qian’s story is so incredibly important for everyone to hear. I’ll be thinking about this book for a long time.