AllImSaying is That I Loved Girl in Translation

BlogHer Review

To be honest, after I signed up to review "Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, I kind of kicked myself because the plot sounded so far outside of what I've been reading lately. I've spent the last six months absorbed in nearly anything that involves werewolves, vampires, zombies and female heroines. Basically, I've been reading fluff. Girl in Translation sounded as far from fluff as you can get.

To summarize, Kimberly and her mother immigrate to the United States from Hong Kong. Kimberly is eleven years old at the time, and her mother has been trying to keep the family afloat by teaching music at a public school. Her mother feels opportunities are limited for Kimberly, who is a star student, and so they relocate to Brooklyn. Kimberly's aunt moved there with her American husband many years before, and helps him run a factory in Chinatown. She assures her newly-arrived family that she will take care of them. Unfortunately, she has a bitter heart and she rules over the factory and over Kimberly and her mother's lives with an iron fist.

Kimberly enrolls in public school, but struggles to make friends and get past the language barrier. Her mother works as hard as she can, but gets paid a pittance for illegal piece work at the factory. They live in a roach-infested apartment in a condemned building.

Sounds cheery, doesn't it? For the first few chapters, I was really worried that Girl in Translation was going to be the Asian version of Angela's Ashes, a book I frankly hated because nothing good ever happened in it. I was silently sending prayers to the patron saint of books (whomever that may be) that the whole book wouldn't be full of tragedy and unhappiness.

Friends, I am pleased to report that wasn't the case. While life isn't easy for Kimberly and her mother, they still survive and find the bright spots in life. Perhaps because of their Buddhist faith, they practice a gentle form of acceptance for their circumstances. That doesn't mean they are passive; in fact, Kimberly becomes something of a fire-brand at school and in the factory. She does not, as a matter of fact, lose herself in translation.

I really loved this book. I cheered for Kimberly, booed her aunt, and was so sorry to leave the world Jean Kwok shared with us when I finished the book. It has made me more aware of the exploitation of immigrants in the United States, and I am going to be more fmindful of the products I buy as a result. I also hope to find some opportunities to volunteer with immigrant groups to help people feel like they are welcome in our country.

In all, I very highly recommend this book, even though it didn't have a single vampire, werewolf, pixie or zombie. That's great praise, folks.

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