Girl in Translation: What do you do when life gives you lemons?
What to do with lemons? Some people make lemonade. Some people take the extra mile (or so) and make a deluxe ultra-rich lemon cheesecake with candied lemon peel. In a sense, that is what Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok is all about.
Faced with the harsh living conditions in a new country, Kimberly takes the card that she has been dealt with, and creates a life for herself and her mother far beyond that which was chosen for them. Seeing what others before her have done with their lives, Kimberly opts for a different life for herself and her mother. Refusing to be tied to the factory and the life that comes with it, she decides that there must be another path they could take in life. Once her mind is set, the cycle is broken.
Kimberly draws from her innate abilities, her faith and her love for her mother, and catapults them beyond the squalid existence they came to know. Kimberly is flawed, she has made mistakes along the way, including life-changing monumental ones, but she does not lose track of her long-term goal -- that of a better life in America. Whether her life is indeed better remains to be seen. She has made sacrifices along the way, and it would seem that feelings of loss are still there.
It is a work of fiction, and not all of us are born with Kimberly’s intellectual gifts and emotional maturity. A typical teenager may not have made some of the choices she made (especially with respect to the Hunky Matt and their life together). There are parts in the book where you feel Kimberly's strength and her unwavering desire to pay homage to the sacrifices her mother made to get her to where she was.
The takeaway for me is this: You can take the path others have chosen for you and live their kind of life, or you can create your own path, make your own mistakes, and raise the bar that has been set for you.
Life is about choices. Even when you don’t think you have any, you are still making a conscious choice. Our existence is a summary of all the choices we’ve made -- good, bad, and hopefully the stuff that makes it all worthwhile.