Review of In the Beautiful Country

In the Beautiful Country In the Beautiful Country
by Jane Kuo
Intermediate    Quill Tree/HarperCollins    320 pp.   g
6/22    978-0-06-311898-0    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-311900-0    $9.99

At the start of this emotional novel in verse full of vivid imagery, ten-year-old Ai Shi Zhang and her parents leave Taiwan for the suburbs of Los Angeles. Money is tight after a business deal goes wrong and the family restaurant is repeatedly vandalized, and the Zhang family considers giving up and moving back. Ai Shi is forced to grow up quickly, code-switching and translating for her parents, all while suffering bullying at school and grappling with her new reality and shifts in identity. Kuo conveys the life of a new immigrant, including constant commentary from others on their differing appearances, clothing, and foods. In the end, Ai Shi learns to approach others, even her bullies, with a sense of generosity and empathy, so as to “get off this never-ending merry-go-round of hurt and hate.” With the help of a few friends, and through sheer tenacity and creativity, the Zhangs begin to realize that they are, in fact, building a place they can call home.

From the July/August 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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