Girl in Translation: A Gritty Twist on the American Dream

BlogHer Review

They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but I think that's archaic advice. In this age of graphic media, I totally grab books off the shelf based on their visual appeal. I'll admit that I thought the teal and yellow emblazoned cover reminiscent of sugary chick lit novels and was pleasantly surprised to find an unexpected depth within the pages of Girl in Translation.

Jean Kwok has made me a fan. Entertainment Weekly called Girl in Translation "consistently compelling" and I am in agreement with the author who penned that review. Partially autobiographical, this fictional account of a young Chinese girl immigrating to America is riveting. Lifting the veil of immigrant children working illegally in sweatshops was almost expected. For that sweatshop to be located in New York was jarring. Portions of the novel felt like a sordid expose but it was woven so intricately with a coming-of-age story that together it was simply a riveting read.

I rooted for Kimberly. I rooted for her to stand up to bullies, to prove herself to doubting teachers, to rise above her oppressive aunt. I rooted for her relationships, for her friendships, and most of all I just rooted for her to succeed. She isn’t a typical heroine and at times she wasn’t even likable and I shook my head at her decisions. And still I rooted for her, because she’s pushing and fighting and working against all odds and I want that for her. Because that’s what we all want, to overcome the odds, to succeed in the face of opposition. It’s our own nature laid bare and lines of print on a page arrange themselves to tell that story, the story of triumph in a real life with real world problems rather than a fairy tale ending. It’s a fairy tale in its own way, gritty and raw and beautiful.

And it would look lovely on my bookshelf, if I hadn’t already lent it out.


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