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The Busy Reader


Pages in Motion. Passion for Stories.

Crazy Rich Asians

Video Length 3:37

Who Should Read It

Anyone who loves chick lit.

Why Should We Read It

The story is fun and the plot is refreshing.

What Will We Learn

A lot of brands that are unknown to the middle-class like myself!

Book Summary

"Reading 'chick lit' has always been my guilty pleasure."

Reading "chick lit" has always been my guilty pleasure. I especially love stories where the female working professional finds her true love while shining in her chosen profession. Inexplicably, I rarely find chick lit novels with credibly smart female protagonists. Don't get me wrong. I am a huge fan of Sophie Kinsella (Can You Keep a Secret?, Remember Me?, I've Got Your Number) and Helen Fielding (Bridget Jones's Diary). While I enjoy the cute clumsiness and unharmful flaws of these female characters, I can't help craving for more sophisticated female characters that would act, well, like a sophisticated person. In this regard, Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians does not disappoint.

"...people can be whoever they want to be in the Big Apple."

Crazy Rich Asians' protagonist is Rachel Chu, a woman who grew up with a single working-class mother. Despite this background, she became a professor of Economics at the prestigious research institute New York University (NYU). Her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, also teaches at NYU. Rachel's mother is very hopeful about this relationship; success to Rachel's mother is not academic tenure, but a husband and children. Rachel finds her mother amusing, but also wonders if she and Nicholas are indeed headed toward marriage. After all, Nicholas just invited her to his best friend's wedding in Singapore. Moreover, they connect well, probably because Nicholas is also from mildly humble origins. What Rachel forgets is that people can be whoever they want to be in the Big Apple. And until now, Nicholas has decided not to disclose that he is part of the uber-upper class and the wealthiest family in Singapore.

"Nicholas' lavish world is stratospheres beyond what Rachel knows."

Nicholas' lavish world is stratospheres beyond what Rachel knows. A six-year-old uber-upper girl attends one of three schools: Methodist Girls' School (MGS), Singapore Chinese Girls' School (SCGS), or Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ). After-school hours focus on classical Mandarin literature, multiple variable calculus, molecular biology, and piano, violin, flute or ballet. College is either the National University of Singapore or a school in England. Medicine and Law are the only two acceptable majors; graduating with honors is expected. After practicing for several years, the girl marries a suitable boy before running prominent charity committees like The Singapore History Museum or The Heritage Society. One cannot simply dress like an uber-upper class girl (Gucci is tacky- only Jil Sanders, Dries Van Noten, Alaïa, Alexander McQueen, or Antwerp Six will do); they must be socialized from birth.

"(Crazy Rich Asians) proves to be a sophisticated exploration of the struggles between cultural, generational, and class differences that feel painfully real."

It is not surprising that Rachel has a hard time fitting in this environment, where none of her education and professional reputation matter. In fact, Nicholas's family holds it against her that she works at NYU, an American institution. Nicholas's matriarch grandmother disapproves, and his mother inevitably confronts the couple to announce that Rachel is not a good match for Nicholas. Rachel feels hurt and insulted, but her reaction and response remain grounded with maturity and reason. We, as the readers, could easily put ourselves in her shoes and imagine the difficult decisions she has to make. Crazy Rich Asians has a rosy beginning befitting any chick lit novel, but like Rachel, it proves to be a sophisticated exploration of the struggles between cultural, generational, and class differences that feel painfully real.


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