Girl in Translation is a Must-Read Debut Novel

BlogHer Review

Amazing, inspiring, moving, intense, breathtaking -- there are not enough adjectives for this book. It might sound like I am exaggerating, but Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok is one of the best books I have read in years. I happened to read the author’s bio before starting the book, and I think it was the best move I could have made -- it told me that, like the young narrator of the book, Kwok came to America from China with her family and worked in a sweatshop. I knew then that this book was not just a well-researched account of the life of poor immigrants; it was a semi-autobiographical account of hardship and overcoming the things in life that seem insurmountable. I adored the narrator, and my heart broke for her and her mother over and over and over. This portrait of being thrust into a new world that seems filled with only bad things was so genuine and fascinating.

What drove me crazy, however, was wondering just how autobiographical it was, and why Kwok chose the novel instead of an autobiographical account. Was her own story worse, and would be too much to bear? Or did she add those gut-wrenching details to enhance the richness and depth of the book? Either way, I couldn’t put the book down. It is the first book I read in two days’ time since having my baby! That is a feat in itself, and speaks volumes. This gets more than my personal stamp of approval. It is a book I will recommend every woman I know and love read. And everyone else, too!


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