by Wang, Qian Julie | China
Paperback | 288 pages
BBC RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE WEEK, OBAMA 2021 BOOK PICK and INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER’Hunger was a constant, reliable friend in Mei Guo. She came second only to loneliness.’ In China she was the daughter of professors. In Brooklyn her family is ‘illegal.’ Qian is just seven when she moves to America, the ‘Beautiful Country’, where she and her parents find that the roads of New York City are not paved with gold, but crushing fear and scarcity. Unable to speak English at first, Qian and her parents must work wherever they can to survive, all while she battles hunger and loneliness at school. Thus begins an extraordinary story that describes, in vivid colours, days labouring in sweatshops and sushi factories, nights scavenging the streets for furniture, and the terrifying moment when the family emerges from the shadows to seek emergency medical treatment for Qian’s mother.
Qian Julie Wang’s memoir is an unforgettable account of what it means to live under the perpetual threat of deportation and the small joys and sheer determination that kept her family afloat in a new land. Told from a child’s perspective, in a voice that is intimate, poignant and startlingly lyrical, Beautiful Country is the story of a girl who learns first to live – and then escape – an invisible life.
‘A powerful, gripping insight into the world of an undocumented migrant in New York . . . beautifully written, with vivid scenes that linger in the mind long after finishing it’ Helena Merriman’A story that needs to be heard. Moving, beautiful, heartbreaking and even funny . . . I never wanted it to end’ Philippa Perry’Deeply compelling . . . I was moved by the love and resilience of this family thrust into darkness. The book casts an urgent light on a reality that extends way beyond America’s borders’ Hisham Matar, author of A Month in Siena and The Return’Astonishing . . . In restrained but beautiful prose, Wang honours her family’s sacrifices, but alerts us to the urgent realisation that they should not be necessary’ Nesrine Malik