PMC Book Club Review: Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang

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Cover of Beautiful Country; January Book Club pick

“It doesn’t matter what you look at; it’s what you see.” – Henry David THoreau

This quote resounded with me throughout the thematic development of Qian Julie Wang’s Beautiful County -our PMC Book Club January pick.

When you look at America, what do you see? 

When you look at those around you on the city streets or in the supermarket, what do you see? 

When you look at the news or political discussion on immigration, what do you see?

Mei Guo is the Mandarin word for “America” and translates into Beautiful Country. The irony and heartbreak of the title translation as it relates to the Wang family is the basis of the memoir.

For 320 pages, readers follow young Qian and her family after they immigrate from China to Brooklyn. In China, Qian’s parents are professors. However, as undocumented immigrants, they work in sweatshops and other laborious positions in their attempt to achieve “The American Dream.”

At the young age of seven, Qian struggles with understanding the fear her parents constantly have with being undocumented, as well as attempting to self-learn English, adjust to make friends, endure extreme poverty, and chase “The American Dream.”

Since publication, Wang has received critical acclaim, such as New York Times Notable Book for 2021. 

Some discussion questions and points to consider that materialized from the Book Club were:

  1. Qian had expectations about the United States before she arrived. How does that line up with your understanding of the US and your day-to-day view of it?
  2. Books have a significant impact on Qian. Did you read any of these books when you were younger or read them to your kids? How did they affect you?

Pensacola Mom Collective Book Club reads on a bimonthly basis. In celebration of Women’s History Month, our March pick is The Girls Who Stepped Out of Line: Untold Stories of the Women Who Changed the Course of World War II by Mari K. Eder.

We welcome you to join us!

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Katie was born in Pensacola and lived there for 36 years with a brief pause in England for two. She now calls Milton home. After earning her degree in English at the University of West Florida, she spent countless sleepless nights deciding between law school or education, but followed her heart and pursued a career teaching high school English and has not looked back since. She and Dan married in 2014, where she was fortunate also to gain a son through marriage. She is now a mom to two big-hearted boys. They spend their free-time enjoying life on the water. Additionally, Katie enjoys trying new recipes and reading all genres-especially cheesy thrillers. She is a wannabe DIYer, who much to her husband’s chagrin houses a sewing machine and Cricut that collect dust while her Pinterest inspiration boards collect numerous amounts of pins for “one day.”

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