Made in China

A Memoir of Love and Labor

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Pub Date 03 Aug 2021 | Archive Date 03 Aug 2021

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A young girl forced to work in a Queens sweatshop calls child services on her mother in this powerful debut memoir about labor and self-worth that traces a Chinese immigrant's journey to an American future.

As a teen, Anna Qu is sent by her mother to work in her family's garment factory in Queens. At home, she is treated as a maid and suffers punishment for doing her homework at night. Her mother wants to teach her a lesson: she is Chinese, not American, and such is their tough path in their new country. But instead of acquiescing, Qu alerts the Office of Children and Family Services, an act with consequences that impact the rest of her life.

Nearly twenty years later, estranged from her mother and working at a Manhattan start-up, Qu requests her OCFS report. When it arrives, key details are wrong. Faced with this false narrative, and on the brink of losing her job as the once-shiny start-up collapses, Qu looks once more at her life's truths, from abandonment to an abusive family to seeking dignity and meaning in work.
Traveling from Wenzhou to Xi'an to New York, Made in China is a fierce memoir unafraid to ask thorny questions about trauma and survival in immigrant families, the meaning of work, and the costs of immigration.
A young girl forced to work in a Queens sweatshop calls child services on her mother in this powerful debut memoir about labor and self-worth that traces a Chinese immigrant's journey to an American...

Advance Praise

A Library Journal Title to Watch

"An important story told with intelligence and heart, a study of discipline as a form of devotion—devotion to a mother, to a legacy, to our own dreams and to those of others, to being good. So much of American rhetoric is about what we are owed. This graceful memoir is about the much trickier problem of what we deserve. Which is, in the end, brightest love." —Lacy Crawford, author of Notes on a Silencing

"Anna Qu has written a thoroughly engrossing and nuanced memoir about triumph over trauma and the meaning of home. Made in China brings the immigrant experience to life and makes you root for Anna. A must read." —Sopan Deb, author of Missed Translations 

"Made In China is a sympathetic, brave portrayal of the confusions, difficulties, and hurts that come with growing up between worlds. Anna Qu's writing about her journey as an immigrant deftly shows how our origins—of economic status, of country—have lasting effects on the ways we approach family, work, and self. I was captivated and moved by her story." —Alexandra Chang, author of Days of Distraction 

"Anna masterfully evokes her childhood with a power and grace that speak of an experience that no one should ever have to endure. This moving and unforgettable memoir needs to be read by everyone." —Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of Patsy

A Library Journal Title to Watch

"An important story told with intelligence and heart, a study of discipline as a form of devotion—devotion to a mother, to a legacy, to our own dreams and to those of...

Available Editions

EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9781646220342
PRICE $26.00 (USD)


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Featured Reviews

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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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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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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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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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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