Girl in Translation is Perfection

BlogHer Review

Girl in Translation, by Jean Kwok, is one of my new favorites. This book is wonderful. As with other books outside my favorite genres, I was hesitant to start reading... a book about a small child and her mother immigrating to America. It's not the typical subject that has me jumping out of my seat. I was so, so wrong. I read it in 2 days. I couldn't put it down from the moment I picked it up.

The story follows Kim and her mother as they arrive in America. Mom barely speaks English and Kim knows very little. We follow Kim's journey through school as she grows up, makes friends, and assimilates into American culture.

One of the first things that surprised me was how funny parts of the book were. The author wrote others' words as Kim heard them, and it was often downright hilarious. You couldn’t help but smile when she succeeded or cry when she was having trouble. You had to laugh when her mother bought Annette a plastic plant for her birthday or gave the cranky teacher a chicken leg as a peace offering.

I loved watching Kim grow up. She went from an awkward, shy girl who didn’t fit in, to someone who could make friends, have crushes, earn tops grades, etc. I loved that her mother didn’t change. Mom kept up her old traditions, almost to a fault, until she finally stood up for herself and made a life changing decision (with Kim’s help.) Jean Kwok painted such a believable picture of their living conditions and Kim’s daily struggles that I felt like I was hearing the sad stories from a friend.

One thing that surprised me a bit in the story is the degree to which Kim abandoned some of her heritage, especially pertaining to certain expectations of women and younger children. I can’t say I’d want her to change it, though. It added to the story, and really helped us learn more about Kim and how she was growing up.

It really was perfect. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a new book.

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