The Wang vs. the World is Jade Chang’s debut work, and is a dazzling glimpse into Chinese-American family life, and the struggles of achieving that allusive American dream.
Having a crazy family isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. Most of my friends can attest to the fact that I’ve complained about my family’s antics more than once–and so have they, about their own families. It seems to be part of what makes us human, in a way. These lines that connect us, these people we have no choice but to be close with, in some way or another–they mean something.
Writing about familial connections isn’t a new phenomenon either. Pride and Prejudice, Flowers in the Attic, and One Hundred Years of Solitude are all beautiful novels, and all feature a dysfunctional family. Along with romance, it seems that the family drama is one of the more popular fiction topics. And it makes sense. Reading about a murderous, or vengeful, or incestuous family can make you feel a lot better about your own. But unless you’re part of some modern-day Addams Family, it’s probably not that relatable.
That’s where the Wangs come in.
The Wangs vs The World is an all-encompassing novel. There’s family drama, affairs, love, sex, money, a cross-country road trip. The book follows the flawed patriarch, Charles Wang, and his journey from China to California, and then, bankrupt and ashamed, to upstate New York to live with his oldest daughter.
Although the novel is Chang’s literature debut, she isn’t new to writing. Chang has been the recipient of a Sundance Fellowship for Arts Journalism, the AIGA/Winterhouse Award for Design Criticism, and the James D. Houston Memorial scholarship from the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. She’s talented and poignant to a T, and the novel reflects that. Follow her on Twitter @thejadechang to keep up with upcoming books.
The book dives straight in, and you’ll find yourself getting happily lost in the Gilmore-esque fast-paced dialogue of the Wangs and their financial trauma. The characterization of each family member is so beautifully done, and it’s easy to start seeing a bit of your own self in each of the Wang children.
There’s Grace, the youngest, who can somehow encompasses the shallow teenager and wise elderly woman all in one. Andrew, the sweet romantic ready to take the world by storm, so like and unlike his father. And Saina, the oldest daughter who seems to be the stereotypical millennial, peaking young and now living a life of inconsistency.
The parentals also inspire connections between the real world and that of the Wangs’. Charles Wang isn’t perfect, not even close, but the love he has for his children, and his naivety towards America and money is charming, making him the all-too real, not-quite-stereotypical lovable dad, complete with cheesy jokes and awkward pauses when sex talk comes to the table. Barbara Wang, Charles’ second wife and stepmother to the Wang children, is tired. She has been through hell with the man who she used to admire so greatly, and is now more of a child to her. She has no children of her own, and now her entire life is being displaced.
All of the Wangs’ lives are being upended, really. Even the children, who themselves did nothing wrong, are affected. The ripples of Charles’ failed business go on forever, and you’ll begin to think of the ways each decision you make impacts your future, in some way.
The Wangs vs. the World is an uproarious debut novel, already being praised by Buzzfeed, Elle, Entertainment Weekly, and more. It stole my heart with it’s witty dialogue, endearing characters, and well-paced plot line that had me staying up all night to finish it. Chang truly captures a family-road trip gone wrong, and will have you falling in love with the Wangs before you know it.
In order to be entered to win the Literally, Darling and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt giveaway for your own copy of The Wangs vs. the World, as well as Qing Tree Scarf, comment below or tweet us @litdarling with what you think it means to belong in America, and be sure to use the #wangsvstheworld hashtag. For example, “Being able to be who I am, and take a stand with my vote!” This giveaway is only open to US addresses.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt recently sent a copy of The Wang vs. the World by Jade Chang to Literally, Darling for us to review, and host a giveaway of the new book.