Girl in Translation: Necessity, Love and Desire Explained
It seemed almost destiny that the e-mail to do a book review for the Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok came as I was getting ready to check out at Costco after having put the exact same book in my cart to buy. The reward to this “destiny?” A book that was hard to put down, one in which I felt connected to the character, and the wish the book was longer.
I will admit that I am drawn to fiction books written in the first person, telling the story of the life of the main character. Being that my two other recent favorite reads were The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and The Secret Daughter by Shilipi S. Gowda, the brief description on the back cover of the Girl in Translation fit my criteria for a good read.
The story begins as Kimberly, and 11-year-old girl from Hong Kong immigrates to the slums of New York with her mother in search of a better life. Under the always watchful and many times critical eye of Kimberly’s aunt and uncle, both mother and daughter work long hours in a sweatshop finishing clothing articles for shipping. Kimberly begins to shine as a student in the public system, and is rewarded for her hard work with a scholarship to a private school -- all the while helping her mother every night finish her work at the garment factory after completing her school work and required work hours at the school.
But this isn’t just a story of a poor immigrant girl struggling to become the best she is, learning a new language, helping her mother more than most Western children will ever experiences and living in the slums.
Underlying throughout the story are the relationships built out of necessity, love and desire. The balancing of Chinese tradition and American modernism. And the longing for a girl to be the best that she can be, and overcome all obstacles thrown at her.