Girl in Translation Needs No Translation at All

BlogHer Review

When I finished Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, I sighed a sigh that is only done when a book is terrific -- part satisfaction at a completing a book well-written, part melancholy that the book has ended. I seriously loved it. The story was gripping, both uplifting and harrowing. Quite simply, this was the best book I have read in a long time.

The story begins when Kim (nee Ah-Kim) Chang and her mother move to New York City, escaping Hong Kong before the rule transfers to China in 1997. The pair arrive knowing no one but Kimberly's Aunt Paula, who sets them up in a substandard apartment and a meager factory job, which Aunt Paula manages.

The author did an amazing job of capturing the wonder, fear and confusion of a new immigrant. One way the author expressed this is through the dialogue; phonetic spellings and a few nonsense words inserted for misunderstood words conveyed the struggles with comprehension someone new to English and American customs would face.

On her first day at her American school, Kim is placed in a class with a rude and over bearing teacher. He greets her with "Our new student eye-prezoom?"

Later that same day, he has the class take a pop quiz, Kim looks around confused and the teacher then accuses her of cheating and gives her a zero: " 'No cheap pen!' he said. His nose and cheeks were flushed as if he were getting a rash. 'You a hero!' "

The interjections and confused language make the reader work slightly harder and empathize that much more with Kim and her mother's struggles. Girl in Translation is a story of struggle, of triumphs and failures and most of all a story of love -- that of a mother for a daughter, a daughter for her mother and of young love between a boy and a girl.

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