Author(s): Jean KwokDownload
Introducing a fresh, exciting Chinese-American voice, an inspiring debut about an immigrant girl forced to choose between two worlds and two futures.When Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to Brooklyn squalor, she quickly begins a secret double life: exceptional schoolgirl during the day, Chinatown sweatshop worker in the evenings. Disguising the more difficult truths of her life like the staggering degree of her poverty, the weight of her family’s future resting on her shoulders, or her secret love for a factory boy who shares none of her talent or ambition. Kimberly learns to constantly translate not just her language but herself back and forth between the worlds she straddles.Through Kimberly’s story, author Jean Kwok, who also emigrated from Hong Kong as a young girl, brings to the page the lives of countless immigrants who are caught between the pressure to succeed in America, their duty to their family, and their own personal desires, exposing a world that we rarely hear about. Written in an indelible voice that dramatizes the tensions of an immigrant girl growing up between two cultures, surrounded by a language and world only half understood, Girl in Translation is an unforgettable and classic novel of an American immigrant-a moving tale of hardship and triumph, heartbreak and love, and all that gets lost in translation.
Some Reviews: 5402 in Goodreads.com
I’ve never read a book that described more accurately what it is like to be an Asian American immigrant.
It’s like Ms. Kwok took pieces of my own experience (growing up in a cockroach-infested apartment with parents scraping by by working multiple menial jobs), and lines lifted from my friends’ stories (calling an eraser a rubber, telling parents report cards came out only at the end of the year) and merged them with a thrilling and thoroughly absorbing story.
The novel takes the Chinese immigrant experience and lifts it from stereotypes; it’s true that Kim is naive and academically oriented, but the author probes so deeply into her psyche and creates situations with such seriousness and honesty that she frees us from such simple labels.
In terms of language, I thought Ms. Kwok did a great job of transposing Cantonese conversations into English (partly by keeping idioms) and of making the English Kim hears sound more foreign to the readers, in a creative way. She infuses the narration with Chinese mentality, not unnaturally, and cinches descriptions of harsh realities with delicately observed prose which, far from seeming out of place, helps tint the situations in fresh hues.
More than anything, the human connection in this novel is real (like Matt, the mother, and colorful characters along the way – Mr. Al, Mr. Jamali, the African American man who comes to fix their heater); the delight of these characters in the face of patheticness, misery, and weakness moved me.
I found the ending extremely dissatisfying though – it really didn’t add anything new to the story and possibly uprooted all the good things that the novel had built up to that point. But I guess my philosophy ultimately differs from Kim’s, and good Asian American literature is so rare that I’m giving this book five stars anyway.
Received free through Goodreads First Reads.
I’m very hesitant to review this book, mostly because I’m not quite sure how to put to words what it is that reading this has made me feel.
It is at once both very familiar, and yet completely foreign. The Cantonese, the way that the author translates the slang and the phrases, the cultural traditions, the deeply embedded lifestyle that is Chinese pride and saving face…when I read about that, it was like something sparked in my blood. This part, I understand, and I have lived.
But then there’s the fact that this story is told from the perspective of an immigrant to America, and I am very much an ABC, American-born-Chinese– or, as Aunt Paula would say, a “bamboo shoot”. So there’s this whole other dimension of the story that is just as significant as the Cantonese that I simply can’t comprehend. It’s as if I’m a relative, but once-removed.
Overall, I don’t think I’ve been as deeply moved by any other book I’ve read this year than I have by this one. I’m left with a feeling of hollow sadness that I can’t quite put my finger on, and yet, I don’t mind. For me, this story is worth the weight of consciousness that has been left behind.
This was such a delightful read that I put off all the other things I was supposed to be doing today and read it in one sitting:) It is Saturday after all and I think I deserved a treat!
It is a wonderful tale of a Chinese mother and daughter who migrate to America and find it not to be the land of plenty they had dreamed of. I thought the author handled it perfectly in particular the way she presents the daughter’s struggle with the English language. However smart she is, however hard she tries there, will always be words and phrases she does not know and just one of these can make a whole sentence unintelligible.
I so wanted her to succeed that I was practically cheering her on through every test and every challenge. The epilogue was sad because of the choices she had to make but also very rewarding in her eventual achievements.
It is fiction but it could have been real. I loved it!
Remember the popular song in the 90s, It’s a Hard Knock Life? That song kept popping into my head as I read this novel. For Kimberly, a Chinese immigrant residing in the slums of Brooklyn, it’s a hard knock life indeed. Her mother and her come from Hong Kong when Kimberly is approximately eleven years of age and fully dependent on Aunt Paula, a jealous relative, they find themselves living intimately with roaches and rats in a garbage-bag-in-place-of-windows, illegal apartment with no heat or air. While struggling to learn English in public school, Kimberly also helps her mom work in Aunt Paula’s sweatshop.
Kimberly soon realizes that the only way to turn her sob story into a success story is thru education. This novel is all about her school years from the age of eleven to the time of graduation when a very adult Kimberly tries to get her mother and herself out of the roach infested apartment and far away from Aunt Paula’s control and wrath. It’s a journey full of hard knocks, but this gal doesn’t let life knock her down. Reading about Kimberly growing up, finding herself, and growing a backbone was like watching a flower evolve from a bud to a fully opened delight.
Can this girl that barely speaks any English and curls up with blankets from a dumpster while stomping on the floor to scare off roaches achieve the American dream? Can a young immigrant dressed in rags and castoffs find love? Scholarships are great, but they don’t guarantee happiness…
I really enjoyed this. I enjoyed seeing American public school from the eyes of an immigrant. I even found bits of humor here and there. (The Sahara pipeline.. the bra lady at Macy’s..LOL) I found myself cheering for the heroine constantly. To top it off, it had a surprise ending. This is one that is staying on my bookshelf for sure.
This was a really good read. A mom and daughter immigrate to America and endure hardships working in a sweatshop owned by a relative. It’s about a girl who is smart as a whip who is finding her way to save her and her mother by getting an education. It’s a story of survival. Good character development and an interesting perspective. Unbelievable that such conditions did exist. I think her story is one of many stories of these immigrants who were taken advantage of and didn’t have the knowledge or courage to fight back.
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