cover image Beautiful Country: A Memoir

Beautiful Country: A Memoir

Qian Julie Wang. Doubleday, $28.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-385-54721-5

In this extraordinary debut, civil rights lawyer Wang recounts her years growing up as an undocumented immigrant living in “the furtive shadows” of America. During China’s Cultural Revolution, her uncle was thrown in prison for criticizing Mao Zedong, leaving his parents and younger brother, Wang’s father, to pay for his “treasonous” ways in the form of public beatings and humiliation. This fueled her father’s desire to find a better life in America, the “Beautiful Country.” In China, Wang’s parents were professors, but upon arriving in New York City in 1994, their credentials were meaningless. “Pushing past hunger pains,” they took menial jobs to support Wang, who worked alongside her mother in a sweatshop before starting school at age seven. During her five years in the States—“shrouded in darkness while wrestling with hope and dignity”—Wang managed to become a star student. With immense skill, she parses how her family’s illegal status blighted nearly every aspect of their life, from pushing her parents’ marriage to the brink to compromising their health. While Wang’s story of pursuing the American dream is undoubtedly timeless, it’s her family’s triumph in the face of “xenophobia and intolerance” that makes it feel especially relevant today. Consider this remarkable memoir a new classic. Agent: Andrianna Yeatts, ICM Partners. (Sept.)