Girl In Translation: For Me, It's Like Going Home Again
By Sally Costa on May 30, 2011
Being a little girl and having to be responsible for “everything that is English” can be exhausting. I know this scenario very well because, like Kimberly Chang, the inspirational character in Jean Kwok’s Girl In Translation -- I, too, have been there.
In Girl In Translation, Kimberly Chang is a young immigrant girl who comes to America with her mother, in search of the American dream. Instead of receiving love, support, and encouragement from the aunt who sponsors their immigration into the United States, they find a family member -- a wolf in sheep’s clothing -- who wants nothing more than to oppress Kimberly and her Mother by making them live in heartbreaking squalor and work in horrendous conditions for her own personal gain.
Throughout the book, Kimberly decides that the only way to take care of herself and her Mother, the only way to pull them both out of poverty and virtual slavery, is to throw herself into her schoolwork and use her education as a stepping stone to the American dream.
Being the daughter of a Portuguese immigrant, single Mother myself, I totally related to Kimberly Chang’s character and with each page that I turned, I couldn’t help being thrust back into my own childhood memories of constantly having to translate to, barter for, and be the main support system for my mother. As Kimberly struggled with things like not fitting in at school, not having the freedoms allowed “normal” American teenage girls, and trying to balance her culture with her new way of life, I was taken back to a time when I went through the exact same things.
Back then, like Kimberly, I realized that receiving a college education would be my goal and my ticket to the freedoms and choices that would allow me to live my life my way. While this book is a timeless story about struggle and achievement, it is also a poignant story about love and self-sacrifice. For me, it reiterated that even though we often have to make difficult decisions and sacrifices in our lives, if we walk with determination, the basic American dream is never out of reach. I truly found this book to be riveting and extremely relatable.
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