Just because some people actually work for their money doesn’t mean they are beneath you.
The books that I have chosen for my reading challenge this year have been a rather good mix of material. I’ve brushed up on my writing skills, explored the depths of the universe, and learned about the value of solitude. And now, with Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, I’ve peered into the surreal world of Singapore’s super rich. As in drop six figures on a single piece of jewelry just because kind of super rich.
The novel represents a fictionalized account of what author Kevin Kwan himself has witnessed. Born in Singapore and currently residing in New York City, he recognizes this incredible disconnect that Asia’s uber rich have with the rest of us common folk. Without spoiling too much of the plot, Crazy Rich Asians depicts the clashing of classes.
This probably sounds ridiculous to most of us “regular” people. To middle class working folk, an esteemed professor from a well-respected university sounds like quite the catch, right? But this kind of thing is all relative. How many people “look down” upon blue collar workers or those who work in the service industry?
I’ve always been a firm believer that there is no shame in honest work. We all do what we need to do to provide for ourselves and for our families. I believe it was Joe Biden’s mother who once said, “Remember, nobody is better than you, but you’re better than nobody.”
We were buying things we actually loved, not things to show off.
Many of us daydream about what it’d like to be rich. We dream about lavish mansions, extravagant vacations, and designer couture clothing. We pine over the possibility of flying on private jets and sailing on luxury yachts. Believe me, I’m much the same.
But when you’re remarkably wealthy and all of your peers are equally wealthy, how easy is it to get caught up in a game of keeping up with the Joneses? Who’s got the bigger yacht or the most servants waiting on your every need? Do you actually want these things because you want them? Or do you want them to one-up those around you?
Even for those of us who are nowhere near rich, how often do we get pulled into this same trap? What car do you drive? What smartphone or laptop do you have? Are you only doing it for the ‘gram?
Aiyoooooh, finish everything on your plate, girls! Don’t you know there are children starving in America?
Everything is relative and everything is about perspective. That’s why I think it’s so important that we celebrate diverse voices and experiences in popular media. That’s how we come to better understand one another and what other people really think about us.
If you’re looking for some great books on the Asian-American (and Asian-Canadian) experience, I recommend Beauty Plus Pity by Kevin Chong (fiction) and How to American by Jimmy O. Yang (autobiography). They represent very different lives under very different contexts.
Crazy Rich Asians is the first book in a trilogy, the most recent of which — Rich People Problems — was named among Esquire‘s best books of 2017. Maybe I ought to dive a little deeper into this unreal world of Singapore’s ultra rich. Or I could just start with the upcoming movie. It’s got Constance Wu from Fresh Off the Boat in the leading role.