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All booksContemporary fictionThe Wangs vs the World
The Wangs vs the World by Jade Chang
Contemporary fiction

The Wangs vs the World

Debut
We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Jade Chang, on your first book!

by Jade Chang

Quick take

Where do we go when we have nothing? Home. It's where we reclaim and revive our purest selves.

Why I love it

Constance Wu
Oct. 2016

When discussing Asian American writing there are two common traps:

1: Assuming that Asian stories are the same as Asian American stories. (They're not!)
2: Assuming that Asian Americans characters are just "regular people" in a story unaffected by their ethnicity.

Jade Chang's funny, effusive, heartfelt novel The Wangs vs. the World defies both traps. It's not a story about Asians, but a story about Asian Americans: regular people claiming ownership of the Chinese roots that shaped their American identities.

Charles Wang is a Chinese person from Taiwan who moved to America with big dreams and little direction. His immodest spirit and a stroke of luck make him fabulously wealthy selling artificial pee to perfume manufacturers. He buys a mansion in Bel-Air and raises two daughters and a son, all uniquely American kids (think college parties, quality weed, BMW convertibles, designer handbags, art openings and artisanal cheeses). But no man's spirit is strong enough to weather the force of an entire economy's crash (think 2008) and Charles, out of nowhere, loses everything.

Read our exclusive Q&A with Guest Judge Constance Wu

Where do we go when we have nothing? Home. It's where we reclaim and revive our purest selves. And for Charles, home means two things: family and motherland. So, since his family is scattered all over America, he embarks on a cross country road trip from Bel Air to New York's Hudson Valley to collect his kids and to seek out their rights to his ancestor's Chinese motherland.

But the sudden poverty is unsettling for all. Grace, the youngest Gen-Z daughter has to go from blogging about Couture Fashion to finding the beauty in a Whataburger sign. For the son Andrew, a college student at Tulane, and true idealist, the loss of his innocence affects him more than the loss of his money as he falls into a passionate fling with a much older woman. And the eldest daughter Saina's riches spring from love. Her two love affairs are the art world and Grayson, her narcissistic manchild boyfriend. She loses both, and hides away in the Catskills, awaiting her family's arrival.

For the father, this arrival is all to get the Wangs back to their Chinese homeland. But like all good stories, it's the journey not the destination. The Wangs piece themselves together on the trip. And as you read this book, I hope you find pieces of yourself as well. I know I did. This novel is filled with heart, history, and humor. It is a worthy and exciting story. I am very glad that it is being told and that it is being read.

Read our exclusive Q&A with Guest Judge Constance Wu

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Member thoughts

All (708)
All (708)
Love (184)
Like (377)
Dislike (147)
774 ratings
  • 24% Love
  • 49% Like
  • 19% Dislike
  • Newburgh, NY

    Excellent writing. The plot line and characterizations were consistent through the entire story. This is 1 of those rare books I am sad to finish cause I will never be able to read it for the 1st time

  • Hartford, CT

    Loved the perspectives from an immigrant Chinese American family! The characters are rich (for a short while), privileged, and sometimes downright annoying but what an entertaining and addictive read.

  • Sherman oaks , CA

    I was surprised at how much I connected with the characters. In hindsight, the ending seems inevitable but it still surprised me and brought me to tears. It was like I knew the Wangs in my own life.

  • Portland, OR

    I've never read a book with such specific characters that I connected to so deeply--and I have very little in common with them. Stunning writing, organization, observations--and universal feelings.

  • Washington, DC

    Relief and joy are two emotions I felt while reading it. Joy because it's delightful and funny. Relief because its great to read a book with Asian American characters who are 3-D and well-rounded.

  • Sugar Hill, GA

    I found this book so entertaining. The characters frustrated me, surprised me and ultimately won me over. A great story about how we perceive ourselves and our circumstances and family connection.

  • San Diego, CA

    What I loved the most about The Wangs vs. the World was the way Jade Chang got inside the heads of each of the Wangs - from Barbara to Grace - to give each of them their own unique voice. <3/ALL

  • Charlotte, NC

    I loved The Wangs vs. the World and following along their cross country journey. The characters were so unique, and I enjoyed the balance between the past, present, and future for all of them.

  • Riverview, FL

    I was not sure I would be interested in the book and once I finally gave it a shot I could not put it down. Amazing read about people who seem so real. You just want to keep rooting for them.

  • Kansas City, MO

    I loved this multiple POV novel about a Chinese American family experiencing a group crisis as well as individual failures, forcing them to each redefine what success means for themselves.

  • St Paul, MN

    The novel was funny and I enjoyed watching the characters develop. I was so disappointed with the oldest child's decision at the end of the book but I did like the very end with the family.

  • Minneapolis, MN

    Very, very funny, every character is memorable and delightful. And very pertinent at the same time, especially for those of us who remember the economy crash well. Good musing on family.

  • Naples, FL

    The story was truly about the "Wangs vs the World!" It was not just about cultural differences, but generational differences within the family members. What an adventure for this family.

  • Rosemount, MN

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters were very well thought out. I laughed out loud a few times on this one. It made me want to take a road trip with my family again!

  • Los Angeles, CA

    A funny, poignant and quick read. I felt bad for the Wangs and the circumstances that led to their downfall. I was interested in all of the different characters stories.

  • Sun Valley, CA

    I will admit that I initially disliked some of the characters, but they have a sort of charm to them, that in their trials, I grew to love them. A great adventure.

  • Fitchburg, WI

    I thought this was a really great book. Especially the beginning where Charles sees that America takes disgusting things and remakes them as beautiful things.

  • Hayward , CA

    Loved it. The characters are great. It's like three bildungrosmans wrapped into one! The characters were very alive, and I would recommend this book to anyone

  • Long Beach, CA

    This is one dysfunctional family! The core and heart of the story was a father who wanted to bring his family back together and share his past with them.

  • La Jolla, CA

    An enjoyable trip with a relatable family. Expresses the darker side of the American dream, family dynamics and the dream of being able to go home again.

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