Girl in Translation: Not Just Another Coming of Age Story

BlogHer Review

When I think back to when I was in the 5th grade, my parents took care of all of my needs -- housing, food, clothes, toys, whatever. I lived in a very loving home except for my older, who I could not stand, and I hated to share a room with my younger sister. I did not have to worry about not having heat in the winter, sharing a tiny studio apartment with my mother, sharing a bed with my mother, going to school all day and then going to work with my mother until 9pm or later. But this is the life that Kimberly Chan lives is Girl in Translation, written by Jean Kwok.

Kimberly is a Chinese girl who comes to America with her mother at age eleven. She lives in the ghetto of the ghettos. The apartment has no glass in the windows and no heat. She is responsible for her education, helping her mother in the sweatshop until late hours of the night, translating everything for her mother, doing her mother’s taxes and much more.

The author, Jean Kwok, is also a Chinese immigrant who went to school during the day and worked in a sweatshop at night. As I read this story I am constantly wondering what is based on what reality and what is made up. Kwok does a wonderful job of weaving the tales of fiction with the reality of everyday life of a Chinese immigrant in America.

As Kimberly goes through life she very quickly realizes that the only way out of the ghetto and the hard life she lives is through school. Although her 5th grade teacher thinks she is stupid she proves that she is a very smart girl. She earns a full scholarship to a prestigious college preparatory high school, which in turn gives her the education she needs in order to earn a full scholarship to Yale.

This story is not only about her obtaining an education it is about her falling in love with boy who also works in the sweatshop and growing up as a teenage in America, but also a teenage with another life to hide from her peers.

It seems as if lately I have read quite a few coming of age stories and one thing that I really enjoyed about Girl in Translation is that the author did an epilogue to let us know what happens 12 years down the road. So many times I have read books similar to a story like this and I am left hanging as to what happens next. Kwok does not leave you hanging.

I am an avid reader and I loved this book. It is well written and a page turn, I could not put it down even when the bath water was cold and I really needed to get out of the tub, but I just had to finish it!

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