In the Beautiful Country (In the Beautiful Country)

by Jane Kuo (Author)

Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

For fans of Jasmine Warga and Thanhhà Lại, this is a stunning novel in verse about a young Taiwanese immigrant to America who is confronted by the stark difference between dreams and reality.

Anna can't wait to move to the beautiful country--the Chinese name for America. Although she's only ever known life in Taiwan, she can't help but brag about the move to her family and friends.

But the beautiful country isn't anything like Anna pictured. Her family can only afford a cramped apartment, she's bullied at school, and she struggles to understand a new language. On top of that, the restaurant that her parents poured their savings into is barely staying afloat. The version of America that Anna is experiencing is nothing like she imagined. How will she be able to make the beautiful country her home?

This lyrical and heartfelt story, inspired by the author's own experiences, is about resilience, courage, and the struggle to make a place for yourself in the world.

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Kirkus Reviews

Deftly touches on complex issues. A powerfully candid and soulful account of an immigrant experience.


Anna's candid first-person narrative makes this first novel an absorbing and ultimately moving book.

Horn Book Magazine

Emotional. Full of vivid imagery.

Publishers Weekly

Kuo debuts with a pensive novel in verse centering a Taiwanese girl grappling with a new life in America. On the cusp of her 11th birthday in 1980, Zhang Ai Shi leaves behind the only place she's ever known--along with all the people, places, and food that she loves--to move with her mother from Taipei to Duarte, California, and join her father to co-run a small fast-food restaurant. Their new home is in "the beautiful country," as America is translated in Chinese, but it doesn't feel beautiful, and it definitely doesn't feel like home. As she works to familiarize herself with unfamiliar language, surroundings, and traditions, Ai Shi grapples for joy and comfort amid increasingly upsetting changes, including instances of classism, school bullies, and vandals attacking the family's struggling new business as well as leveling racist slurs. Together, Ai Shi's family must find a way to adjust while holding on to their memories and to each other. Employing a reflective tone and sincere lines that capture the heartbreak of leaving home alongside a clear portrayal of the family's varied experiences, Kuo paints a vivid story of interpersonal bonds and persistence that also touches on nuances of navigating shared Taiwanese and Chinese ancestry. Ages 8-up. Agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary. (June)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 5 Up--A beautifully written novel in verse about finding your way in the world. Set in 1980, Ai Shi/Anna, a Taiwanese girl, moves with her parents to California--or as they call it, the beautiful country. Anna is thrilled to be moving, until she arrives and learns that life in California isn't what she expected. She is the only Asian student at school, and the kids bully her for being different. Her parents put all their money into a fast food restaurant that is costing them more than they make, especially with reoccurring vandalism. What started as a big dream may actually be a big mistake. Kuo doesn't shy away from the hardships, but presents them in a suitable manner for the target audience. The racism that Anna and her parents experience is very relevant today, with some of the depictions (pulling at eyelids and reciting racist rhymes) likely to cause discomfort. This book is a work of fiction, but is inspired by Kuo and her family's immigration to the United States. While Anna was born in Taiwan, her father is Chinese, and she discovers what it means to be from both places during that time. Anna's story is a true journey, and Kuo skillfully breaks it into parts that allow readers to think and reflect on each piece before moving ont VERDICT A moving historical fiction book that is valuable for all readers and belongs in libraries and classrooms.--Amanda Borgia

Copyright 2022 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Vivid, heartbreaking, and hopeful in all the right ways. — Gene Luen Yang, award-winning author of American Born Chinese

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Quill Tree Books
Publication date
June 28, 2022
In The Beautiful Country
BISAC categories
JUV057000 - Juvenile Fiction | Stories in Verse (see also Poetry)
JUV039250 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Emigration & Immigration
JUV011020 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - Asian American
JUV016000 - Juvenile Fiction | Historical | General
JUV074000 - Juvenile Fiction | Diversity & Multicultural
Library of Congress categories
Novels in verse
Domestic fiction
Taiwanese Americans
Culture shock

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