Beautiful Country

A Memoir of an Undocumented Childhood

    • 3.8 • 287 Ratings
    • $11.99
    • $11.99

Publisher Description

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.

Biographies & Memoirs
September 7
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Penguin Random House LLC

Customer Reviews

Babazach ,

I want more.

I want you to fill in the gaps. I want to keep reading and inhaling your struggles and successes. I want to keep rooting for you. You are an inspiration.

LeonF63 ,

How do we allow people to live lives of quiet desperation?

No child of seven can understand and is often protected from such knowledge, the issues their parents must handle. When she was seven, Qian's father suffered a tremendous professional loss due to government action and fled his homeland. His wife and child followed sometime later, only to stay beyond the expiration of their visas, and thus began their lives as undocumented persons in the Beautiful Country (United States).

Learning true stories of children that suffer so much hardship through no action of their own, difficulties that governments and adults initiate, and compound makes for emotional learning. The author titled the work so that you think it is the most incredible sarcasm possible. I wonder how humanity will continue when we have so little respect or consideration for each other. We must do better; this story is a beautiful gift of surviving long enough to accomplish something worthwhile. It is also a first-hand tale of what we must address in society.

bigbri70 ,

I hard look at the hard life of illegal refugees whom we embrace while disparaging.

Suffering as the poorest of the poor. Smiling with hope for a better future. Achievement emerges in a happier world, but the memories never fade

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