Kwok's Girl in Translation Will Make You Think

BlogHer Review
As an avid book reader, it’s hard for me to find a book that actually makes me think about life as I know it, and feel uncomfortable in the process. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok does just that and more. Published by the Penguin Group in 2010, Girl in Translation is a somewhat autobiographical fiction writing that takes the reader into the world of an immigrant's life here in the United States.

The story begins as Hong Kong immigrants Kimberly Chang and her mother are shown to their new home in New York City. Aunt Paula, Kimberly’s mother’s sister (whom I just want to slap silly every time she was mentioned in the book), sponsors their venture to the land of opportunity. Setting them up in nothing more than a run-down tenement and a poor paying job in her husband’s factory, Paula quickly scurries back to her posh New York life leaving Kimberly and her mother to handle the big city themselves.

Girl in Translation spans six years of Kimberly’s life, from 6th grade through her high school graduation, with a small glimpse into the years after that. With a mother that doesn’t speak English well at all, Kimberly is forced to spend the majority of her youth working in the same factory as her mother while continuing to keep up her studies at school. School happens to be an area where Kimberly excels, and once she breaks the language barrier it is through that avenue that the Chang’s life takes a turn for the better.

Jean Kwok paints a vivid picture of the difficulties the Changs face as the years pass. Her picture is almost too vivid when she describes the cold apartment they share with many creepy crawlies. There is a minor love story interwoven through the pages that adds to the read. While the ending was different than what I expected, it was a perfect ending to a not so perfect life.

The first day I started reading this book, I was asked by two different people what the book was about. I answered them both the same; that it’s a book about a girl who comes to America with her mother and works in a sweatshop in New York City. When I finished the book two days later, I came to realize that it was about so much more than that. It’s about perseverance, love, family, growth, friendship, and finding one’s way.

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