Reviewed by Mary Jeneverre Schultz
Emerging trends unfold in this nonfiction narrative of how Chinese immigrants are considering new continents for places to strike it rich. Instead of the United States, Chinese immigrants are looking into Europe. Former journalist, Canadian-Chinese author takes a traveling fellowship to research and shadows several immigrants, who have settled into Europe. Owning a home, creating a business or making money is some of the ambitions of Chinese immigrants wanting to leave their homeland, China.
As the issues of immigration heats up in political debate in the United States, what are other countries doing on these emerging trends. Are they instituting language requirements? What are some integration policies?
Suzanne Ma explores how Chinese immigrants are settling to Europe to places like Venice, Milan or Florence. Stories of labor laws in workers’ treatment and wage benefits abound all over the countryside. Ma collected these stories as she digs into the life of those attempting to understand their aspiration for a better life outside of China.
“These are stories happening now,” she said during a phone interview.
Her curiosity about Chinese immigrants moving into Europe started back in 2007. Struggling with dual identities of Chinese Canadian, Ma wanted to “get in touch with roots.” She learned how to speak Mandarin but moved to Beijing to enroll in an intensive language program. During the program she met Chinese Born Canadians also known as CBC, American Born Chinese, also known as ABC, Chinese from Australia, Chinese from France, Chinese from Germany, Chinese from Sweden. She even met her future husband, who was Dutch born Chinese also taking a year off for the same program.
Intrigued by the Chinese settling in Europe, she discovered sociology patterns different from Chinese migrating to the United States. “Migration to Europe is a completely different narrative (than the United States),” said Ma, who took the plunge by quitting her 9-to5 job as a journalist in New York to conduct research and shadowed Chinese families moving to Europe.
Ma shares the personal stories of Ye Pei, who fantasizes about Venice, a city of gondolas, canals and floating buildings. With compassion, Ma weaves the story of hardship for Pei and her family, who settled hours away from Venice, the enchanted city.
Many personal and heartfelt stories surround Pei. The author compels the reader the hardship of learning another language and the strict rules of integration regarding on obtaining a driver’s license, ins and outs of buying property and changing jobs for better benefits and hours. The stark reality of living in another country squashes Pei’s romantic notion of Europe.
The vivid description of Italian towns, cuisine and culture indicates the author spent time and visited places in person. It feels real, transporting the reader to the European countryside.
Ma, 31, hopes this book inspires readers to sit up and pay attention to all the immigrant stories unfolding around them. “I want everyone to realize immigrants all around us might look like ordinary people with extraordinary stories.”
Interested in learning more about Suzanne Ma and her photo exhibition of those she met researching her book, visit her website at www.suzannema.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @Suzannebma.
Pages: 192 pages
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers