Beau­ti­ful Coun­try: A Memoir

  • From the Publisher
September 1, 2020

An incan­des­cent and heartrend­ing mem­oir from an aston­ish­ing new tal­ent, Beau­ti­ful Coun­try puts read­ers in the shoes of an undoc­u­ment­ed child liv­ing in pover­ty in the rich­est coun­try in the world.

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, 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.

Qian’s par­ents work in Chi­na­town sweat­shops and sushi fac­to­ries. Instead of laugh­ing at her jokes, they fight con­stant­ly. Qian goes to school hun­gry, where she teach­es her­self Eng­lish through library books, her only source of com­fort. At home, Qian’s resilient Ma Ma ignores her own pain until she’s unable to stand, too afraid of the cost and atten­tion a hos­pi­tal vis­it might bring. And yet, young Qian, now act­ing as her moth­er’s nurse, her fam­i­ly’s trans­la­tor, a stu­dent, and a work­er, can­not ask for help. The #1 rule in Amer­i­ca: to be noticed is to risk los­ing everything.

Sear­ing and unfor­get­table, Beau­ti­ful Coun­try is 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.

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