September 22 @ 6:30 pm
Beautiful Country: An Evening with Qian Julie Wang and M. Evelina Galang
Books & Books, Miami Book Fair and Americans for Immigrant Justice present…
An Evening with Qian Julie Wang
In Conversation with M. Evelina Galang
Wednesday, September 22, 6:30 PM ET
LIVE via Crowdcast
An incandescent 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.
Extraordinary…With immense skill, Wang 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.–Publishers Weekly, *Starred Review*
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 full of curiosity, 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.
In Chinatown, Qian’s parents labor in sweatshops. Instead of laughing at her jokes, they fight constantly, taking out the stress of their new life on one another. Shunned by her classmates and teachers for her limited English, Qian takes refuge in the library and masters the language through books, coming to think of The Berenstain Bears as her first American friends. And where there is delight to be found, Qian relishes it: her first bite of gloriously greasy pizza, weekly “shopping days,” when Qian finds small treasures in the trash lining Brooklyn’s streets, and a magical Christmas visit to Rockefeller Center–confirmation that the New York City she saw in movies does exist after all.
But then Qian’s headstrong Ma Ma collapses, revealing an illness that she has kept secret for months for fear of the cost and scrutiny of a doctor’s visit. As Ba Ba retreats further inward, Qian has little to hold onto beyond his constant refrain: Whatever happens, say that you were born here, that you’ve always lived here.
Inhabiting her childhood perspective with exquisite lyric clarity and unforgettable charm and strength, Qian Julie Wang has penned 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.
About the Author:
QIAN JULIE WANG is a graduate of Yale Law School and Swarthmore College. Formerly a commercial litigator, she is now managing partner of Gottlieb & Wang LLP, a firm dedicated to advocating for education and civil rights. Her writing has appeared in major publications such as the New York Times and the Washington Post. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their two rescue dogs, Salty and Peppers.
About the Moderator:
M. EVELINA GALANG is the author of the story collection Her Wild American Self (Coffee House Press, 1996), novels One Tribe (New Issues Press, 2006) and Angel De La Luna and the Fifth Glorious Mystery (Coffee House Press, 2013), the nonfiction work Lolas’ House: Filipino Women Living With War (Curbstone Books, 2017), and the editor of Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, 2003). Among her numerous awards are the 2004 Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Prize for the Novel, the 2007 Global Filipino Literary Award for ONE TRIBE, the 2004 Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Awards Advancing Human Rights, and a 2002 Senior Research Fellowship from Fulbright. In the spring of 2020, Galang was named Cornell University’s Zalaznick Distinguished Visiting Writer. She directed the MFA Creative Writing Program at the University of Miami from 2009-2019. She now teaches for the University of Miami Creative Writing Program and is core faculty and President of the Board of Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA/Voices).
Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice) is an award-winning non-profit law firm that fights for justice for immigrants through a combination of direct representation, impact litigation, advocacy and outreach.
The first Miami Book Fair, founded by Miami Dade College and community partners, took place in 1984. Since then, it has been recognized as the nation’s finest literary festival.