My decision to read Crazy Rich Asians wasn’t an accidental one. I had just returned from a family wedding in Singapore, and being around so many of my relatives — some of whom I haven’t seen in more than 15 years — aroused such a bizarre sense of nostalgia. Part of it is comforting, like seeing the faces and personalities of my aunts and uncles (all of whom are physical variations of my mother); part of that nostalgia came with relief. It reminded me of how exhausting it is to always have to consciously, or subconsciously, factor in what your relatives/extended family are going to think of you (or your parent) if you were to make a misstep in your life (or if you’re just merely impolite to an elder.)
This is what Crazy Rich Asians‘s whole premise hinges on — about what you are expected to do and how you are expected to act when you are part of a “clan,” a somewhat-archaic word that is still used liberally in Asian families; about how your actions reflect on your upbringing and on your parents; and about how your actions can be perceived by the rest of the family, whether if the assumptions they come to are true or fair.
The plot is pretty simple: Nicholas Young, a handsome professor of history who comes from Singapore’s upper echelons of “old money,” has invited his girlfriend, Rachel, an American-born-Chinese NYU economist, home to Singapore to join him for his best friend’s wedding. Only that Nick does not tell Rachel how wealthy his family is, nor does he prepare her for the scrutiny she would receive as a woman from an “improper background.” Whether he is naive or cruel, Rachel is thrust into the middle of a decades-old in-family feuding, in which everything — especially marriage — is calculated in dollars.