BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Made in China: A Memoir of Love and Labor by Anna Qu [in Shelf Awareness]

For most of her first seven years, Anna Qu was “the girl without parents; a father dead, a mother who left to start a new life.” And yet those years held the “love” Qu names in the subtitle of her bittersweet debut, Made in China: A Memoir of Love and Labor. Qu recalls being “wild, angry, and resentful” over her abandonment; more memorable, though, was being nurtured by devoted maternal grandparents in Wenzhou, China. At seven, Qu’s mother – glamorously remade – transplanted Qu to Queens, N.Y., where “labor” would define the rest of her youth.

As a child immigrant living with her mother’s new family, Qu became the perpetual stepchild. She was neglected, abused, beaten, banished. At nine, she attempted to throw herself out the window. By 13, she was the family’s full-time housekeeper. At 14, she was sent to Xian to live with strangers, work in a factory, then sent to local school. Six months later, she returned to Queens to work in her parents’ sweatshop. At 15, she finally confided in a school counselor, who alerted the Office of Child and Family Services; the outside work stopped, but her home life never improved. When she left for college, her mother made sure Qu knew she wasn’t welcome back.

After getting her MFA, Qu requested her OCFS files. What the contents reveal is not what she remembers. In exposing that unreliability, Qu comes to the jarring realization of “how black and white I have made my entire life out to be.” What will haunt readers are the indelible feelings – of loss, fear, anger and devastation, but, by book’s end, somehow, she has love.

Discover: Chinese American immigrant Anna Qu’s unflinching memoir recalls the love of her earliest years and the labor she endured to survive into adulthood.

Review: “Biography & Memoir,” Shelf Awareness, August 6, 2021

Readers: Adult

Published: 2021


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