Cover Image: Made in China

Made in China

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Member Reviews

Anna's story is horrifying. For the most part she tells it well, and I couldn't put it down. I wish I'd understood a bit more of what is normal for Chinese culture - obviously Anna's mother's treatment of her was not the norm, but it still had a context that I didn't feel I knew enough about. The last quarter or so of the book drifts off a bit. She talks a lot about her experience working for a startup company, and I believe she does this because parts of the experience remind her of her childhood and her mother, but it feels off-topic. Also, what I thought would be the climactic moment of Anna turning in her family to CPS wasn't as big a deal as one would expect, although I suppose she is just telling things the way they happened.
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I was a ghost haunting a family that wanted nothing to do with me, and the loneliness left a tightness in my chest.~from Made in China by Anna Qu

One thing I have learned in my reading is that trauma is passed through generations. Grandparents and parents do not share what haunts them, the terrors they saw or the hardships they endured. But it changes who they are, their behavior, and how they raise the next generation.

Anna Qu's mother insisted that the world was a hard, unfair place and not to expect anything from life. Qu was expected to earn every bite of food, the roof over her head and a bed in the basement. In her early teens, she worked in the family sweat shop fifty hours a week and then acted as the family maid at home.

When Qu's father died, her mother knew she could not remarry in a China with a one child law; she already had one child and no man would want her. So, she immigrated to America and found work in a sweat shop, leaving her daughter with her parents in China. Beautiful and hard working, she caught the eye of the factory owner; they married and had two children before Qu was summoned to join them in America.

Qu had been told that life in America would be easy, with lots of food and toys and love. But the fatherless girl was treated like a burden, a dependent on her benevolent step-father, an outsider who had to earn her keep. The family indulged in conspicuous consumption, her mother wearing high end fashions while her step siblings were lavished with gifts, Qu did not have enough to eat, no private property, and was treated like the lowest servant.

Qu's memoir is filled with disturbing scenes. Her parents left the factory for home before Qu's shift ended. By car, they were home in thirty minutes. Later in the evening, Qu took mass transit, an hour long journey. She describes her vulnerability, how a man exposed himself to her and how she had to elude his following her. She came home to a dark house and a cold plate of food.

Qu had idealized her grandmother who had raised her in China after her mother left. Later, she tells Qu that she had been a hard mother as well, just one of generations of women who had to fight to survive. From her grandmother, Qu learns of the bitterness of women's lives, how they must be ruthless to survive, and to teach the next generation to survive.

When Qu sought help through Child Services, they gave her short term counseling but did not report that she was abused. The beatings, the neglect, the violence, the lack of love, the lack of concern, the work in the sweatshop were not enough. But her mother was told to allow Qu to keep the money she earned. Qu studied hard. Books were her passion. She got herself into college and graduate school without financial or emotional support from her mother.

Qu, like her mother, beat the odds and became successful, each in her own way. She still struggles with her past. It is certain her mother did, too. Overcoming hardship, the immigrant experience, the place of women in society and the family, what it takes to survive--it is all in this affecting and honest memoir.

I received a free egalley from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.
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I finished "Made in China" in a couple days, but it was hard to read in all its bare honesty and utter vulnerability. In her memoir, Qu walks you through her abuse-filled childhood as a young child of a widowed immigrant mother. After 5 years of waiting for her mother to get her bearings in America while she stays in China with her grandparents, she traverses several continents to arrive at her new home, only to realize that she's an unwanted vestigial nuisance to the family, serving only as a reminder of her mother's difficult past.

What you witness in the subsequent years is a pattern of unrelenting, hateful abuse as seen by her mother's incessant verbal mistreatment, physical violence, forced unpaid child labor, and most symbolically, an emotional and physical (though only temporary) ejection from the place Qu wanted to call home and family. The most tragic part, though, is when the author, even after all those years, still questions the very fact that she got abused. That breaks my heart. To think that a piece of paper from the OCFS based on a stranger's non-committal observance of her family led her to question and doubt all the experiences she lived, felt, and breathed is awful.

Qu refrains from using words that portray the extreme depth and drama of her mother's abuse, and I found that interesting. The heaviest accusation she throws at her mother is "being mean." She narrates events matter-of-factly. In fact, the memoir is rather organized and "put-together" for a recollection of such horrid memories. At first, I couldn't tell if that was some emotional distancing deployed as a defense mechanism, which is obviously understandable. But as she details her adult years and her gradual processing of her past experiences, I sensed overwhelming compassion on Qu's part to truly, deeply understand her mother's point of view and how she too was affected by her personal and intergenerational trauma. Qu doesn't mention forgiveness or reconciliation, and the story doesn't necessarily tie together to a happy ending, but her memoir is an engrossing reflection of two people estranged by land, culture, and history. Worth the read.

Thank you to the publisher for making this ARC available through Netgalley!
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Deeply heart wrenching memoir about a Chinese immigrant who is working through her experiences as a Cinderella figure in her own home growing up (minus the prince). Speaks volumes about inter generational trauma, memory, truth, and culture.
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This heartbreaking memoir is the exploration of Anna Qu's upbringing and re-engagement with those memories as an adult. When her father dies, Qu's mother heads to the US to work and leaves her daughter with her parents. Years later, Qu follows her mother to New York and into a new life that involves a stepfather and two half siblings. Her mother treats her like a servant, neglects her needs, is emotionally abusive, and makes her work in the family sweatshop in Queens. It's a tough read simply for these descriptions of abuse. Qu eventually talks to her school counselor and agrees to have her call the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), and while this changes a few things, her relationship with her mother remains volatile. As an adult, Qu then seeks her OCFS files as she reflects on her childhood, and sees that it is riddled with errors. More importantly, she sees that her situation was declared as "Not Abuse," and that leads to another set of complicated questions. Though deeply personal, this book also speaks volumes to the effects of intergenerational trauma and how that can play out.
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In MADE IN CHINA, Anna Qu reflects on her difficult upbringing, being raised by her grandparents in China while her mom immigrated to America. When she reunited with her mom in Queens, she soon realized that she didn't fit in with her mother's new family and she was treated differently from her half-siblings. In her memoir, she explores the abusive relationship with her mother, the generational trauma that stems from poverty, famine, family separation, systems that fail its constituents, unfulfilled good intentions, and immigration. There are painful moments, but the tone of the memoir is one that seeks to understand these complicated feelings. While it was heartbreaking to read, I was fully engrossed in this memoir. It offers a real look at the darker consequences and life experiences of immigrants in America in their quest for the American dream and upward mobility.
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A shocking heartbreaking memoir of the abuse the author suffered at the hands of her mother.Sent to work in a sweatshop treated like the maid no warmth or love shown to her..It’s also the story of the strength of the author her strength to overcome her horrible treatment and survive and find success in her life,#betgalley#madeibChina
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I always have a hard time reviewing non-fiction based on an individual's experiences because it feels a bit like you're judging something that's deeply personal. I can't imagine how difficult this must have been for Qu to write, but it almost feels like she went through this with a grit and bear it attitude. The book lacks any kind of flow, which makes the reading experience a little hard. The memoir is a bit disjointed, and the transitions between the narrative and flashbacks are awkward. There are random asides about the history of China or factories that seem completely out-of-place. I don't mind the information per se, but it almost feels like a bait-and-switch when you sign up to read a memoir and start reading a bunch of exposition. 

I don't know how much will change between now and publication, but the ARC reads more like a rough draft than a cohesive, finished product. This has a lot of potential, but in her attempt to tackle a wide range of topics, none of them get the time and attention they deserve. As a result, we end up with a lot of half-explored ideas about childhood trauma, culture clashes, and unreliable memory. This was an ambitious attempt; it just fell a bit short for me.
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Anna Qu explores a question central to everyone: how reliable is our memory and our interpretation of experiences? There are some wonderfully crafted scenes that bring Qu's experiences to life--describing her work in the sweatshop or her early life in China. Told mostly in a linear structure with some flashbacks. I do wonder if Qu shied away from the deeper pain of the events and to that end, I can't say I blame her. However, in the text it read like not quite enough weight was given to the pain. I think it's also particularly difficult when it's the ones meant to love and protect us that hurt us.  You can see Qu grapple with the question of her mother.  She clearly wants more from her but also realizes that there isn't more her mom can give.  The idea she says as "We are all raised by children." That our parents have their own traumas from their lives. It was really profound! Even with some areas where Qu may have shied away, she really comes to some moments of really amazing clarity and profound meaning! 

I found myself reading on to see how she got out of her situation and what meaning she made of it. The protective services report was a shocking moment that was not what I expected. I won't give it away, but it changed the narrator and was a powerful lens by which we can understand family, culture and how our own experiences color how we see others.
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A startling memoir of abuse, sweatshops, and families. Anna Qu grows up in China without a father, living with her grandparents until her mother returns to bring her back to the U.S. Her mother remarried and has two more children, building a new life for herself. As Anna is brought into the family, she has hopes of a beautiful reunion and relationship with her mother. Instead, she is treated with contempt and hate by the entire family.

A sad and demoralizing account of growing up with a hostile mother who cares only for appearances and money, she hides her daughter, forces her to be the maid, and to work in the sweatshop at a young age. With little to no help from her mother, she goes on to graduate college and graduate school to earn an MFA. 

The author tries to understand why her mother cannot love her in the way she wants until her grandmother comes to the U.S. Through stories of her mother's childhood, she begins to understand what happened to her mother and why she is the way she is. Made in China is a story that will grip readers' hearts from beginning to end.
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I read this in one day, simply because it was too horrifying to put down. It's a story of the abuse that can be seen within a Chinese immigrant family or perhaps the cycle of abuse. American readers will find it almost unbelievable; I suspect Asians will find parts of it to relate to, but also a very alarming story. How the author got through all of her upbringing, which was labeled as Not Abuse by a social worker is a tribute to her strength and spirit. I suspect her mother now probably regrets some of her actions, but also in some way finds them justifiable considering her own past and her aspirations. 
This would be a great selection for a book group to read and reflect on.

Thank you to NetGalley for an advance copy of this book.
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