Beautiful Country is a memoir of a woman whose parents overstayed their visa making the three of them undocumented immigrants, a family living in fear of deportation back to China. She begins her story as a child in China, her recollections are those of a child, her loving grandparents and extended family, her parents with good careers, a world of color, delicious food, and a neighborhood of friendly people doting on her.
But her father’s family had been politically persecuted and he felt at risk as well. He left for the United States (Beautiful Country in Chinese) and then later, her mother and she followed. In New York City they lived in poverty. Her mother was a college professor in China and worked in a sewing sweatshop in America.
Wang’s memoir is alternately hilarious and heartbreaking. It is full of the adorable misunderstandings of being a child that will make you laugh out loud. There is also the pain of poverty and the constant fear of police. Through her eyes, we see how the constant pressure on her parents damaged their marriage and put them all at risk.
Beautiful Country is a fast-paced and enjoyable memoir. The pain and fear of being undocumented are balanced by the several humorous incidents of childhood. These stories have the feeling of often-told family stories. Many were probably recounted to her a hundred times by her parents, “Remember when you…” stories. The stories of her own fears are much fresher, feeling as though they come from intense memories. I enjoyed this book very much. I hope she also writes a memoir of her family’s years in Canada.
Beautiful Country will be released on September 17th. I received an e-galley through NetGalley.