Girl in Translation: A Book All Immigrants Can Relate To

BlogHer Review

Did you know that I’m an immigrant? Yes -- sure, my story is different then that of Kimberly Chang, the main character in the new novel Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, but I can still relate.

Kimberly emigrated to the United States with her mother when she was eleven years old. Barely speaking any English they relied on a relative to help them find their way. And, like most immigrants, with pure grit, hard work, and determination they found their way. In Kimberly’s case, she managed to pull them out of a roach-infested, unheated, condemned apartment into a life of luxury.

There were many times during the reading of this story that I could relate to Kimberly. While I was older then Kimberly when I emigrated to the United States -- 27 -- I came alone. And you may think that coming from Canada to the US wouldn’t be a big deal… let me tell you, there were many times where I was thankful for the one thing that I could find comfort in: I spoke English fluently. My first apartment wasn’t roach-infested but it wasn’t the wisest choice. Luckily I had a relative (a distant cousin) who vouched for me and a job … but no credit history, no contacts, no rental history. Immigrants needs to be resourceful.

Kwok’s storytelling brought to life many of the details that made Kimberly’s life so difficult -- and allowed me to empathize with her. Those tax and immigration forms? I’ve been through those and they’re not easy -- I can’t imagine having to fill those out and not be a native English speaker. Getting through high school is a challenge any way you slice it -- not to mention having to work on the side.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I don’t get a lot of time to read and I found myself sneaking off to get a few pages read at various points during my day. What a treat it was to read this debut novel from Jean Kwok!

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