In the Beautiful Country by Jane Kuo

Published by Quill Tree Books

Summary:  Ai Shi (or Anna) is excited to finally be moving from Taiwan to “the beautiful country” of America, where her father has already been living for months.  He moved there with a plan to go into business with a friend who owned an electronics store, but when he arrived, the man backed out of the deal.  So Ba bought a restaurant in L.A. County, and Ai Shi and her mother go to work there immediately upon arrival.  The long hours at the restaurant and the dingy apartment are a far cry from what Anna dreamed about, but worst of all is the racist bully at school and the two teenagers who keep vandalizing the restaurant.  A grocery store cashier takes the family under her wing, and Anna and her parents learn the value of kindness and forgiveness–lessons they apply to other new immigrant families as they finally begin to see a profit from the restaurant.  By the end of the story, Anna’s parents are no longer considering moving back to Taiwan, and Anna has learned enough from her year in America to begin to dream about “the beautiful country” again.  320 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  This debut novel-in-verse doesn’t shy away from the hardships of immigrating to America, but also shows how caring people and hard work can ultimately lead to success.  Details about the 1980’s and the relationship between China and Taiwan are well integrated into the narrative. Fans of Kelly Yang or Reem Faruqi will enjoy this.

Cons:  The back flap says that the book is based on the author’s experiences growing up in California in the 1980’s and working in her family’s restaurant.  I wish she had written an author’s note to tell more about that.

July 27, 2022 at 04:30PM Janet Dawson