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After recommending the thriller novel "The Turnout" by Megan Abbott in August, Jenna Bush Hager has a touching memoir for her book club to read in September. This month, she is highlighting "Beautiful Country" by Qian Julie Wang as her Read With Jenna book club pick.
"'Beautiful Country' was one of those remarkable books that stays with you long after you’ve finished reading it," said Jenna. "I love memoirs and I particularly love beautifully written memoirs that read almost like novels."
Wang's debut novel tells her story of growing up as a young undocumented immigrant in New York City's Chinatown. As Wang details everything from working manual labor in city sweatshops to teaching herself English in the public school system, she exposes the very real challenges but also the simple joys of her upbringing.
"I think probably worth noting that even though those years were difficult and hard. This book is also just a celebration of family and childhood, and I had so much fun writing those moments of joy, playing pranks on my roommates and the jokes and dances I shared with my father," said Wang.
Writing a book has always been a goal for Wang.
"I had always dreamed of writing this book, because I grew up living and breathing books. It was how I learned English and it was how I found a home in America where I felt incredibly lonely," said the author.
After becoming a citizen shortly after the 2016 election, she felt she had a new responsibility to put her story out into the world. Now, she hopes her book will be a source of hope and empathy.
"I think it's very easy to empathize with the people that you see in mainstream media and in books and therein lies the problem of under-representation. If you don't see enough of yourself mirrored back to you or people who are not like you mirrored back to you, it's harder to understand their humanity, and how much you may in fact have in common with them," said the memoirist.
Jenna Bush Hager also hopes the book will start impactful conversations within the book club and beyond.
"When it comes to widely-debated issues such as immigration, it is one thing to listen to pundits speak their opinions, but it is another to read the real details of a little girls experience growing up as an undocumented immigrant in the U.S.," said Jenna, "It is one of those remarkable books that stays with you long after you’ve finished reading it," said Jenna.
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For more book recommendations, check out:
- 6 page-turners you need to add to your summer reading list, according to authors
- 5 books to read after 'The Turnout,' by Megan Abbott
- All of Jenna Bush Hager's book club picks