A few years ago, I ordered the first “Crazy Rich Asians” book for the library’s e-book collection. When the next two volumes came out, I ordered those too. They were fairly popular, but not among the top circulating e-books. I read them and loved them, though, so I recommended them to my family. Eventually, my mother, aunt, and grandmother read them too, and also loved them. As the movie release date drew near and anticipation began to grow, so did the wait list for the library’s digital copies. There are now 22 people waiting for the first volume, 7 people waiting for the second volume, and 3 people waiting for the third volume.
Part of the reason the books and movie have become so wildly popular is that so many people, even those who are not Asian or “crazy rich”, can identify with the universal themes of family, loyalty, ambition, and love- for family, friends, and romantic partners. Their families might be “crazy rich” and live thousands of miles away in a different culture, but they are still just like ours at heart, with all of our faults and foibles. At a time when certain forces are trying to drive people of different cultures apart, the books are a wonderful reminder that across the globe, all of us are much more similar than we are different.
The author Kevin Kwan explores these themes with detailed descriptions of their wealth and secretive society that could only come from an insider’s point of view, but he does it with a great sense of humor that brings everything back down to earth. His humor even extends to the footnotes, which he uses to explain specific things in Asian culture that outsiders might not know.
The film changes a few plot details, but remains true to the overall story and feeling of the books. The lush, vivid scenery and costumes really bring the books to life, and make you want to go there. It is a perfect Cinderella story, set in modern Southeast Asia with a sense of humor mixed in. You will leave the movie wanting to walk through their parks, eat in their food courts, and meet someone just like Nick.
Let’s hope they make the sequels for books 2 and 3!
The real-life history behind how this group became so rich, and how they arrived in Singapore from mainland China hundreds of years ago, is also fascinating. You can learn all about it here.
Finally, these books show us how fiction about cultures different from our own opens our eyes and brings us all together. If you would like to find something similar, explore the hundreds of titles on our e-book “Society and Culture” page.