Girl in Translation: A Lose Yourself and Get Nothing Else Done Kind of Book!

BlogHer Review

I have a scale in which I measure all books. It’s not a star system and it’s not a thumbs up or down system. It’s a little simpler than that. It’s usually something more along the lines of... “Does this book suck me in so thoroughly that I don’t want to sleep, eat or work until I’ve completed it?” or “I would rather clean the toilet and fold laundry than waste my time finishing this book." The former are like winning the lottery (think crying, laughing, and jumping up and down) and the latter seem like drudgery (i.e. scrubbing the toilet).

So when I was sent a book to review called Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok I could tell within the first 10 pages that I wasn’t going to get anything done that day -- in the awesome way. It’s the semi-autobiographical story of a young girl and her mother who emigrate from Hong Kong to America with endless hopes and dreams. They speak little-to-no English and live in an apartment with several missing windows, no heat and more vermin than they can count. Both mother and daughter work in a sweat shop to survive, making just pennies for each clothing item they complete each day. Their one hope is young Kimberly’s talent for academics. And so Kimberly throws herself into learning a new culture, a new language and helping her mother survive in this new world.

I found myself drawn in to this story right away. Kwok had a unique way of phonetically writing the unknown English words that Kimberly would hear in her day-to-day life. As the reader, not only did that help me to understand the challenges she faced, but it put me in the same predicament that the character found herself in -- completely misunderstanding what was going on around her. I found myself rooting both of these strong women on. And don’t expect that you’ll guess the ending halfway through the book. The story twists and turns and brings you out on the other side feeling satisfied and full of hope. It’s definitely worth the read.

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