Made in China: A Memoir of Love and Labor

Catapult Aug. 2021. 224p. ISBN 9781646220342. $26. MEMOIR
In her debut memoir, Qu (nonfiction editor, Kweli journal), who was born in Wenzhou, China, and raised in Queens, NY, tries to make sense of a fraught childhood with a critical and withholding mother. Qu’s father died not long after she was born, and her mother soon emigrated to the United States in search of opportunity. Qu was raised in Wenzhou by her grandparents until the age of seven, when her mother brought her to New York. She describes the family’s changed dynamics after her mother marries and has two more children with a Taiwanese man who owns a New York sweatshop. The family only speaks Mandarin, a language Qu doesn’t understand. She is treated like a servant and made to care for her two younger half-siblings, clean, and cook. Struggling to get along with her mother in her teen years, she is sent to China to live with strangers and, upon returning to New York, is made to work long hours in her stepfather’s garment factory. Qu’s high school guidance counselor alerts authorities, on the author’s behalf, to notify them of her parents’ violation of child labor laws. This leads to Qu’s eventual estrangement from her family.
VERDICT A nuanced examination of complicated ripple effects of intergenerational emigration. A powerful memoir of finding self-worth.
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