Girl in Translation: Choosing Your Path

BlogHer Review

Imagine your mother, once wiping the spots from the silverware at a restaurant, now crushing cockroaches before they got to your food on the kitchen table. This is the new life Kim and her mother have begun, and they count themselves lucky.

I was really eager to start reading Jean Kwok's Girl in Translation. Lately I have been all about watching Asian television dramas, and this gave me the feeling of reading one, only with so much more depth. Girl in Translation is the story of Kim, now being called her Americanized name "Kimberly", and her mother escaping their life in Hong Kong for their new life in New York. The two are assisted to the US by Kim's Aunt Paula, who had married an American man in order to better her life. Once they arrived, Kim and her mother realize that their new life was going to be much more difficult than they expected, and that even their closest relatives were not who they seemed. Aunt Paula puts her sister and niece up in an apartment with few whole windows, no heat, and more cockroaches and rats than they can fend off. Kim's mother is immediately put to work at Uncle Bob's factory -- a sweatshop. Like most of the families working in the factory, Kim is sent to school, but expected to come back after school and help her mother finish her quota of work. In great debt to Aunt Paula, and rarely affording more than rice and home made clothing, Kim spends all of her time helping her mother and studying for school. She sees every cent spent in terms of how many skirts they had to finish.

Kim, after struggling with a deep language barrier, begins to excel at school. She meets true friends, and those who aren't so true. We get to follow her as she not only finds it difficult to fit in as an Asian in America, but as a blossoming teen to which we can all relate. Besides being a story of strength and perseverance, I was happy to find it a story of true love as well.

What I enjoyed in all of this was how even though I had never experienced many of these things, Kwok was able to describe it in a way to make me feel like I was right there with Kim. Her descriptions were easy to understand and had a beautiful Chinese flavor to them.

One thing I think I could have had more of, was Kim's life once high school was over. Although there is an epilogue (Don't forget to READ THE EPILOGUE!!), Kwok probably could make a second book out of all the events summed up at the end of this book. Here's hoping!!!


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