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Teng’s Review: Rich People Problems (Crazy Rich Asians #3) by Kevin Kwan

Teng is my very best friend and you can find more of her posts here.

Crazy

Hardcover, 384 pages
Published May 23rd 2017 by Doubleday
Source: Publisher

Soon after I heard that Kevin Kwan will be publishing his third book in the Crazy Rich Asian series, Rich People Problems, I have been diligently stalking my local library to see if I can get my hands on a copy. Fortunately, Nafiza, with her book magic, procured me a copy, so that I do not need to obsessively hit refresh to see if the waiting list at the library has been updated.

I have read all three books in the Crazy Rich Asian series, and Rich People Problems is a great finale that neatly ties up all the loose ends and brings the story to a very wholesome close. Granted, I would love for the book to be longer, or for Kwan to just keep writing. But I can say that I am happy with the way things ended.

Like the previous two books, Rich People Problems is outrageously funny, deliciously gossipy, and I have yet to read a book that name and label drop with such class and sass. Rich People Problems is worth reading just for the laughs.

As an Asian, Taiwanese to be exact, I adore this book and this series not just for the laughs but also for giving the world a glimpse at very typical Asian culture and family drama. Kwan seems to emphasize on this point as well, that he is, in a way, modernizing or making Asian culture more palatable for Western readers. For Asian readers, like me, I think it is safe to say that we relate to a lot of the issues and storylines used in the book. Ok, I do not have even 1/10000 of the wealth of some of the characters in the book, and honestly, the world Kwan has created is like reading about Narnia and knowing that it is real(Yes, people like the characters in the book are definitely real. The stories I can tell). But the dialogue between Nick Young and his mother, and the relatives conversation about grandmother’s health are very, very familiar.

This is slightly spoilerish, but in the book, Kwan includes a “ten-point social placement scanner,” where he explains how one Asian evaluates another in terms of social status and wealth. The ten points read very privileged, and very few people can probably make it through all ten stages and score a decent result at the end, but dear lord, I understand it. One part that really resonated with me is actually the first point of the ten-point plan that considers what kind of Asian is the individual being evaluated? I know that to others, all Asians look the same, if not similar. But to us Asians, we have clearly drawn lines in the sand between each group and sub-group of Asians, we are clearly aware of the boundaries, and damnit, we are not one of the other Asian that you think we are! On a slightly vain note, as a Canadian Asian from Vancouver, apparently I score about middle in Kwan’s order of importance of different kinds of Asians. I think Kwan’s ordering is quite accurate, and I am, dare I say, proud, that I scored higher than the other type of Asians listed behind my group on the list?  I know it is discriminatory to say one type of Asian is just better than the other, but this way of evaluating other Asians does feel very prevalent in Asian communities, and affects the way we interact with each other.

Speaking of discrimination, I really like that Kwan addresses some of the prejudicial views held by the older characters in his story. Some of the prejudicial views mentioned in the book about parents’ expectation of children, money, mental health and others do exist in Asian populations, and I have heard them. Kwan explains the prejudicial views as because the older characters have held these biases for so long and with their wealth and age, their biased views become the right view in their minds.  This does not necessarily excuse the biases, but I think Asian readers will relate to Kwan’s explanation. Respecting our elders is a core value in Asian culture and in my family too. Oh, it drives us, the younger generations, absolutely bonkers sometimes, but in the end, we respect our elders wishes. Even if it means we stress eat alarming amounts of sweets…and crispy, crunchy deep-fried food.

I highly recommend this book. It is highly entertaining and gossipy, a wonderful glimpse into Asian culture for some, and it is so comforting and relatable for others. Also, I would urge you to read this with some authentic Singaporean food close at hand. Reading this already drove me to visit a Malaysian restaurant, and the book just made me hunger for more Singaporean food.

Have you read Crazy Rich Asians? Are you excited to see the movie adaptation with an all-Asian cast? They just wrapped productions last month! @kevinkwanbooks

Adult · Contemporary · Guest Post · review · YA

Guest Post: Review of Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

18373213

Paperback, 544 pages
Published May 20th 2014 by Anchor
Source: Publisher

When Nafiza asked me to write a review on Crazy Rich Asians for her blog, I agreed but with trepidation. Why? Well, have you seen the way she writes? Exactly. Anyway, she asked, and here is my attempt.

However, before I begin, I have to say that when I first heard Crazy Rich Asians was published, my reaction was actually: Meh, pass.

If you can see from my perspective, I am Chinese, Taiwanese to be exact, and I live in a weird little suburbia town in Vancouver where there is an overwhelmingly large Asian population, and a healthy chunk of that population is usually draped in Chanel, Dior and Celine as their normal day wear, and some of them bust out their Hermes Birkin bags when they are feeling fancy. Sounds familiar? I thought so too.

The prospect of reading a 400+ page book on a world that is quite similar to what I see every day did not sound all that appealing to me; until I finally cracked open the book.

I was hooked by page 30.

Some people have said Crazy Rich is a must-read for Asian people, and I have to agree. This story feels uncannily familiar. Not so much like a real-life documentary, but it is a little caricature-ish. There are multiple characters established in the novel, each representing a different perspective to the story, or shall we say, a different player in the game of Who Is Nick Going to Marry? Rachel Chu and Nick Young are like the innocent and naive players in the game, though one of them learns the game a lot faster than the other. Astrid is Nick’s incredibly fashionable and understanding cousin who doesn’t seem to participate in this game. Eleanor is Nick’s mother, who is desperate and honestly, quite vicious in her attempts to make sure that Nick will marry someone who is befitting and advantageous to him and his family’s wealth and status. There are a lot of other characters in the story, each of their perspectives’ adding more background and color to this fantastical (but real) world of the Asian gazillionaires. From Kwan’s narration of the many relatives and friends of Nick’s extended family, it is clear that in the world of the riches, there are very precisely drawn lines between old money and new, and the ones who are truly rich and the ones who think they are and are pretending. Honestly, aside from reading about the deliciously fierce scheming, backstabbing and general paranoia and tension involved in the great marriage scheme, half of the fun of reading the book was to marvel at the sheer excess and opulence of the world of the wealthy Kwan has established in his novel (Suffice to say, all the extravagance I see daily doesn’t mean much in the world of the Crazy Rich. I doubt people here wear current season haute couture for a dinner party at grandma’s). Besides, Kwan narrates the story from multiple perspectives, and sometimes in a rather gossipy, soap-opera tone that fits perfectly in the novel, and gives the story almost a surreal fairy-tale quality.

Crazy Rich is definitely a fluffy book, with all the antics the different characters pull trying to get Nick to marry the girl they believe is right for him (with many of them thinking they are the perfect girl for Nick). The cattiness is hilarious to read and will probably feel quite familiar to Asian readers. However, it would be unfair to simply label this book as brain candy, for there are actually two parallel storylines in the novel, concerning Nick and Rachel and Astrid and her husband. And the two storylines progress so subtly through all the fluff that when they all come to a head in the end, they give a rather surprising twist to the story. The two storylines make the story a little more down-to-earth, and makes Crazy Rich seem less like a brain fluff book and more like a story with some gravitas.

I heartily recommend the book for all readers, especially readers interested in Asian culture, Asian soap operas, and fashion, especially vintage haute couture. (I swear, I will kill for Astrid’s wardrobe! And Grandmama’s jewellery collection. Vintage crown jewels!)

Also, on a side note: I recommend reading this book with the phone number for the best Malaysian/Singaporean restaurant in your local vicinity on hand. Singapore is like food porn heaven, and Kwan does not disappoint.