Title: Girl In Translation
Author: Jean Kwok
Pub Date: April 29th,2010
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.
“What were my chances? I was just a poor girl whose main practical skill was bagging skirts faster than normal.”
I’ve wanted to read this one since the first time I saw it, but it always kept getting pushed down. I finally made time for it and it’s one thing I’ll never regret. It’s the kind of book you can’t put down because you can completely immerse yourself in both the main characters life and thoughts. Before I begin I do want to apologize for the excessive amount of quotes, it was hard to just pick a few!
The story follows little Kim who moves from Hong Kong to New York, she didn’t speak any English and neither did her mother. Everything was different and her mother went from being a music teacher to sweating in a factory both day and night. Their house was full of cockroaches and didn’t have any heat. She started school in a public school, were instead of helping her, they only made fun of her and demanded her to be smarter.
“That was ma and me: Two squeamish Buddhists in the apartment from hell.”
“Even now my predominant memory of that phase of my life is of the cold.Cold like the way your skin feels after you’ve been slapped.”
Even though Kimberly had this awful life, it never felt like she was complaining, more like she was simply telling us about it and how she wished it could have been different.
One of my favorite things about how this book was written was how some of the metaphors and sayings were translated literally
“With a wol’fs heart and a dog’s lungs.” Untrustworthy and vicious. My heart was still likeaping about like a frog in my chest.”
“If youre straight as n arrow, you’ll have to beg for a living.” Ma said she was quoting a cantonese expression about the dangers of being too honest.”
They were a lot of fun to read!
From here on there might be a few spoilers, nothing to big but just important things that happen.
Sadly things weren’t all getting better for Kimberly, if she was able to accomplish anything her Aunt Paula (also her boss) would make it harder for them to make money and she would get jealous and continually harass them.
Then theres her love life. Not going to lie the happy moments were perfect and I absolutely love how Jean Kwok writes romantic scenes.
Kimberly fell inlove with a boy and after she missed her chance to be with him she made herself into an emotional stone. She got a new perspective on both boys and love.
“Boys weren’t my enemy, they wre co-conspirators in a mission to flee. My secret was acceptance.”
“How many ways can you get tortured by love”
I was not a huge fan about how she would be “kissing boys”. I understand that it was to make us realize she had given up on love but there was a constant mention of “that’s one of the boys I kissed” and it would have been better If they would have names or if we got a number.
Our main guy is Matt and he is a sweetie pie! He even though he made awful decisions, I was still rooting for him and Kimberly the whole time.
That’s about all I can mention without spoiling anything big, which sucks because it's such a wonderful book and I just want to keep talking about it. That being said, I think everyone should read this and love it too.