Imagine the first time you visited New York City, or any bustling metropolis. I am sure you remember the noise of traffic and chatter, the taxis honking, you feel the wind of the city air and the people walking briskly by. You might feel excited. You might be overwhelmed and a little scared. You might be looking up at the tallest building you’ve ever seen. You might be looking directly in front of you and watching more people in one place than you’ve ever witnessed. Look just a little to your right and you might see a family of three. They have a lot of the same feelings, thoughts, reactions, fears, and sentiments, but for very different reasons.
Beautiful Country is one of my favorite memoirs I’ve ever read, about an undocumented immigrant living in poverty in America after leaving China in 1994 with her parents. Qian Julie writes so vividly that you feel her fears and anticipation, applaud her courage and resilience, and reflect on her deep themes and message. I loved the lyrical observations about everything from the books and TV shows of my own generation to her daily musings growing up in New York City. A “Read with Jenna” pick in 2021, this is a coming-of-age story about the American Dream, beautifully told through the senses of a memorable young girl, as a struggle to survive.
Our theme for the Festival this year is "connection" and this book proves the power of literature to connect us to stories that are not our own, but profoundly change us after reading them.