Beautiful Country puts readers in the shoes of an undocumented child living in poverty in the richest country in the world.
I loved that description. It is perfect for this beautifully written memoir.
The Chinese word for America, Mei Guo, translates to “beautiful country”. And when seven-year-old Qian arrives in New York in 1994, coming with her mother to reunite with her father who has been here for 2 years already, she is almost paralyzed with fear.
In China her parents were Professors. In America, they are illegal and must work at menial labor jobs that barely pay the rent much less food or clothes. Her Ma Ma constantly reminds her to stay hidden.
Looked down on and shunned by the kids at school and the teachers, her only savior is the library. This is where she learns everything. Her treasures are found on the filthy streets, tossed out by other poor people. She is constantly afraid, hungry and dirty.
Her parents are always fighting. Ma Ma is tired of sweatshops and wants to go home but Ba Ba is determined to stay. When her mother enrolls in school to get a degree, her father is even angrier. And when a health emergency arrives, they are sure they will be deported.
I was amazed at how the author told her childhood story. It was raw and gritty and not at all nice. But through it all you can just see this little girl was not giving an inch! She belonged here and she made her own opportunities.
It broke my heart hearing the way they were treated. Highly educated people being looked down on and judged because they wanted a life without fear of reprisals from a corrupt government and yet when they got to this land of opportunity, the opportunity is available to those born here. It made me uncomfortable and embarrassed and I think we all need to read this and take a hard look at how we treat immigrants.
I hope we hear more of her story. Very Well Done!
NetGalley/September 7th, 2021 by Doubleday Books