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Episode 235: Qian Julie Wang

BY MEGAN LABRISE • September 28, 2021

Qian Julie Wang’s stellar debut offers a child’s-eye view of U.S. immigration.

On this episode, we’re celebrating Banned Books Week (Sept. 26–Oct. 2), the annual celebration of the freedom to read. Qian Julie Wang joins us to discuss Beautiful Country (Doubleday, Sept. 7), an affecting account of her family’s journey from China to the U.S., and her challenging early years as an undocumented elementary schooler in New York’s Chinatown. This critically acclaimed debut memoir is September 2021’s “Read With Jenna” pick for the Today book club.

Kirkus on Beautiful Country: “Engaging readers through all five senses and the heart, Wang’s debut memoir is a critical addition to the literature on immigration as well as the timeless category of childhood memoir. As saturated in cultural specificity as classics like Angela’s Ashes and Persepolis, the narrative conveys the unique flavor and underlying beliefs of the author’s Chinese heritage—and how they played out as both gifts and obstacles in the chaotic, dirty maelstrom of poverty. A potent testament to the love, curiosity, grit, and hope of a courageous and resourceful immigrant child” (starred review).

Wang and host Megan Labrise discussthe temporal focus of the memoir; writing from the perspective of the child you once were; why the book is structured in 30 short chapters, with a foreword and an afterword; whether she gives special care to the opening sentences of chapters; the thought behind this sentence from the book: “The heartbreak of one immigrant is never that far from that of another”; her father’s family’s experience of the Cultural Revolution, and why her father ultimately decided to leave China; what the American Dream means to her; and much more.

Then editors Vicky Smith, Eric Liebetrau, and Laurie Muchnick join us for a spirited discussion of Banned Books Week, the importance of the right to read whatever you choose, how many copies of Fifty Shades of Grey there are on NYPL shelves, how opponents of critical race theory may affect the publishing industry, and more.

This episode is sponsored by Lake Union Publishing, home of What Passes as Love by Trisha R. Thomas.

 

Thanks to our advertisers:

A Rising Tide of People Swept Away by Scott Archer Jones

A Symphony of Rivals by Roma Calatayud-Stocks

Shoes on the Stairs by Jan Steele

 

Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.

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