Crazy Rich Asians
There are two things in my life I have discovered in college that have helped me to find solace and a greater sense of knowledge after growing up in Greenwich, CT, out of touch with my Asian roots: Anna Akana’s YouTube videos and Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians. Incredibly smart and descriptive, along with being hilarious and relatable, Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians is set to become a movie this summer with an all-star cast of various Asian-American stars. And, after devouring Kwan’s novel on my nine-hour plane ride back to New York, I personally hope Crazy Rich Asians will be to people like me what Black Panther has become for African-Americans.
Kwan’s 2013 satirical novel tells the story of Rachel Chu, a New York University economics professor who decides to go spend her summer with her boyfriend Nick Young in Singapore along with attending the wedding of one of Nick’s best friends. However, before leaving, Nick neglected to mention his family’s astounding wealth (up in the trillions, most likely) and prestigious lineage (including being in-laws to Thai royalty) to Rachel. As soon as she arrives in Singapore, she is swept up into a world of the exceedingly and extravagantly rich and must navigate Nick’s nosy relatives and the judgment of those within Nick’s social circle, all while continuously trying to stick her ground and maintain her own identity.
Not only does the book fabulously showcase various types of Asians — Chinese, Chinese mainlanders, Singaporeans, Hong Kongese, even Filipinos — Crazy Rich Asians’ rich narration and language helped to perfectly recreate the lavishness, extravagance, and elegance that Kwan associates the Asian upper-class life with. When describing Singapore’s food culture and picturesque surroundings, it was incredibly easy to picture the food in front of you and marvel at the beauty of Nick Young’s home. Kwan immediately immerses you into Nick’s affluent lifestyle, making you feel like you are also Rachel Chu — an outsider walking into a new mysterious world for the first time in a place where its beauty makes you feel so much at home despite very much not being so. Throughout Crazy Rich Asians, Kwan masterfully describes all of his surroundings with vivid description and sharp wit.
However, perhaps his greatest achievement is the dynamic that he has established between the characters, and the accuracy at which he satirizes the upper-class Asian lifestyle. His humor instantly felt relatable and his subtle satire only emphasized that relatability; never had I felt so connected to a singular novel because of the faith I had in him (that I had found very early in the novel) to tell a perspective of a woman stuck in the diaspora, who suddenly realized how out of touch she was with her home continent, and how desperately singled out and lonely she felt. Never had I felt so connected to the generational divide he establishes with Nick’s mother and her friends and relatives to Nick and his cousins, amazed at how he made every single one of Nick’s family members feel like their own unique character separated by their different views, personalities, and interests. Never had I smiled so much at all the Asian references that Kwan makes, the snide side remarks that play at Asian social lives, and at the journey that Kwan took his lead characters on to help them discover their own identities apart from their families, imbuing me with a great sense of pride to be an Asian-American.
The uniquely ridiculous and heartwarming book known as Crazy Rich Asians is as colorful, vivid, hilarious, and fantastic as people say it is, but it does an amazing job at highlighting much more than that. In its own great way, it tells the story of a woman trying to grab a hold of her identity in a divided world, and goes extremely in-depth into questions about identity, family, and love that make Kwan’s novel even more of a treasure. I highly recommend Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians not just to people looking for a hilarious beach read to take them out of the tension of academics but to people also searching for their own places in the world and for their own racial definition of themselves.