A young girl forced to work in a Queens sweatshop calls child services on her mother in this powerful debut memoir about labor and self-worth that traces a Chinese immigrant's journey to an American future.
As a teen, Anna Qu is sent by her mother to work in her family's garment factory in Queens. At home, she is treated as a maid and suffers punishment for doing her homework at night. Her mother wants to teach her a lesson: she is Chinese, not American, and such is their tough path in their new country. But instead of acquiescing, Qu alerts the Office of Children and Family Services, an act with consequences that impact the rest of her life.
Nearly twenty years later, estranged from her mother and working at a Manhattan start-up, Qu requests her OCFS report. When it arrives, key details are wrong. Faced with this false narrative, and on the brink of losing her job as the once-shiny start-up collapses, Qu looks once more at her life's truths, from abandonment to an abusive family to seeking dignity and meaning in work.
Traveling from Wenzhou to Xi'an to New York, Made in China is a fierce memoir unafraid to ask thorny questions about trauma and survival in immigrant families, the meaning of work, and the costs of immigration.
Qu rewrites the bootstrap narrative of immigrants building a better life for their children in her grim and entrancing debut. Her "path to the American dream" amounts to a devastating story of abuse and abandonment, beginning in 1985 Wenzhou, China, when her mother left her as a toddler with her grandparents "to start a new life" in America. Her disappointment "steeped like tea, growing dark and bitter" until her mother came back for her in 1991. While she was away, Qu's mother " behind her country manners" and married (and had two children with) the owner of the Queens sweatshop where she worked. When Qu arrived in America, she learned English and excelled at school, but was forced to work in the sweatshop under the watch of her mother, whose "fury ran so deep, every word dripped with resentment and venom." She eventually reported her parents to authorities, and with the help of child services, was able to come to a "truce" with her mother. Even in revisiting her harrowing memories, Qu writes from a place of empathy, transcending pain to embrace hope: "Sacrifice is in every generation of our family. I am no exception." This marks the arrival of a promising new voice.