Get Lost Inside Jean Kwok's Girl in Translation

BlogHer Review

There are very few books that immediately upon opening, I can’t put down. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok was one of those few books. From the moment pre-teen Kimberly first steps in the new country of America, she instantly has to put aside part of her cherished childhood, and struggle with her mother’s to make it in a new and foreign place.

Girl in Translation follows Kim’s journey as the young daughter of an illegal immigrant who comes to Chinatown for a better life, while paying back assumed family debt. Her story is riveting and she seems to do the impossible from Kim attending school all day and trying to fit in, in a place she doesn't even know the language, to immediately having to go to help work until past nine o'clock at night her mother in a sweatshop to make merely pennies and barely have ends meet. She has to constantly manage flip-flopping cultures, while living in a condemned apartment with roaches and mice, no heat, and barely any food. Both she and her mother show a brave spirit and a will to survive.

I poured over this book from the first page to the last, completely lost myself in a really good way. The characters were distinct and interesting; it was easy to read, the setting and voice seemed and felt authentic if not sometimes horrific, and yet it was completely enjoyable. I felt as if I was seeing the actual inside of a sweatshop factory in Chinatown, and had a glimpse of their ancient culture with it’s rules and mores. I rooted for Kim and her mother the entire way, hoping along with them for a better life, turning the page quickly as I could so I really see what happened up until Kim's adult life. No spoilers here! Take Kim’s journey with her and immerse yourself for a while entirely in another place and culture.


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