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Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

Girl in Translation (edition 2011)

by Jean Kwok

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1,5101474,899 (3.94)97
Title:Girl in Translation
Authors:Jean Kwok
Info:Riverhead Trade (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:book club

Work details

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

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Showing 1-5 of 147 (next | show all)
I would actually give this book 3.7 stars. ( )
  jaconstancio | Jun 26, 2017 |
Honestly, this is one of those books that I would've never read if it wasn't for the Popsugar Reading Challenge. I started reading it with an open mind and once again, it's one of the books I'm glad to have discovered and read.

When I bought this book, the cover was immediate proof that I would never have picked it out myself. It's very simple and, when feeling it, the book feels as if it's made out of recycled paper. Feels old, but is new. In a strange way, I kind of liked that.

After I read the synopsis, I assumed that Girl in Translation would contain a lot of character development and I was immediately intrigued by how two people would survive in a foreign country, which a culture and language completely different from their own.

After a slow start - slow, but not "I have to fight to keep on reading"-slow - I soon completely crawled inside the book and took in everything it had to offer.

The writing itself had one unique component that I absolutely loved and by which you notice how the main character, Kim, is learning English. You'll see exactly what I mean in the next two quotes:

"Our new student, eye-prezoom?"

"This is a pop quick," he said. "Fill in allde captal see T's."
Another interesting and - to me - fun aspect of Joan Kwok's writing style is that she uses Chinese sayings, literally translated into English, and then explains what the actual meaning is. Of course I had to include a Chinese saying that has to do with rice, cause... Come on! They're still Chinese...

"Hey, someone has to find the rice right?" To earn the money.

"He's got a human heart too." She meant he had compassion and depth.
Because of all the details that are given in the book, you'd imagine it'd get boring after a while. But this wasn't the case at all. On the contrary. All the information you get, all the little details, make sure you experience Girl in Translation as more than just a bystander.
This book really got to me in terms of feeling how Kimberly and her mother experience all difficulties that come with their immigration. Not only that, but also the way they are treated by both strangers and family members.

All in all, Girl in Translation is a very confronting book when it comes to themes as poverty, immigration, acceptance and humanity. It also made me realize how much we really take for granted, while others - who have it so much worse - appreciate the things we don't even realize are worth being grateful for.

We all fight for what we want; we are all pressured by the standards of society and have a hard time living up to those. Yet... Imagine trying to achieve them while you have absolutely nothing to aid you in that fight. Nothing, except for your own being, your own willpower and wisdom. When you really have to fight to have even a fraction of what "normal" people have?

"I too would be expected to become attractive and well-rounded."
If you want to read about someone who fights to achieve exactly that - a "normal" life that is acceptable according to our society - you have to pick up this book and start reading.

Yes. It will be confronting. It will make you think about the things you have and take for granted. It will make you pause and reflect on friendships and how sincere they must be to really contribute something to life. Your gratitude for everything and everyone in your life will increase. So I'm saying this is a must read.

Because of the slowish start, I'm giving this book a 4,5/5 and the final message to you guys that you should add this to your TBR!

[For more reviews, check out my blog!] ( )
  booksandmunches | Jun 21, 2017 |
I was really looking forward to this read, but it turned out to be a bit of a letdown. Started out well, but whimpered down in the end. ( )
  Soulmuser | May 30, 2017 |
‘Girl In Translation,’ by Jean Kwok, is about a twelve-year-old immigrant girl, Kimberly Chang, and her mother who emigrates from Hong Kong to the United States. By day, the mother must work twelve hour plus days in the clothing factory where she is paid by the number of skirts that she sews. To fulfill her mother’s quota, Kimberly must help out at the factory after school. Because Kimberly is a math and science whiz, she wins a scholarship to a prestigious private school, and she soon learns to weave between the expectations of two very different worlds. She attends school with wealthy, more privileged students during the day, and then she transforms to a factory worker after school, returning home at night to a freezing, roach infested apartment, pervaded with rodents. But Kimberly is determined to better her life and the life of her mother, and she pursues her dreams, even in face of grave adversities. In reading this story, I was shocked by the living conditions that were described in this novel, and I was surprised that Jean Kwok had experienced first-hand living in poverty and working in a New York sweatshop as a child. Although the Horatio Alger great American work ethic did come to fruition for Kimberly, I also wonder what the chances might be for ordinary people, who possess less than exceptional intelligence, to rise out of the mire of poverty. This novel certainly gave me opportunity to consider the lives of immigrants, in how they might be used as a necessary workforce for cheap labor, and how our system may continually be abusing these poverty-stricken workers. ( )
  haymaai | Apr 30, 2017 |
The first 2/3 of the book was excellent and is a solid 4 stars. I appreciated the fact that the author writes from experience as an immigrant who came to this country without knowing the language, worked in sweat shops, and yet excelled despite the odds. Unfortunately, the last 1/3 of the book reads more like a YA romance, a genre that is just not my cup of tea. IMO it was unnecessary, as the story was compelling enough on it's own. Another minor point is it would have been impossible for the ending to have happened 12 years later. ( )
  janb37 | Feb 13, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 147 (next | show all)
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.
Kwok adeptly captures the hardships of the immigrant experience and the strength of the human spirit to survive and even excel despite the odds.
added by khuggard | editLibrary Journal

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jean Kwokprimary authorall editionscalculated
Wey, GrayceNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Erwin, Stefan and Milan, and to the memory of my brother Kwan S. Kwok
First words
I was born with a talent. Not for dance, nor comedy, nor anything so delightful. I've always had a knack for school. Everything that was taught there, I could learn: quickly and without too much effort. It was as if school were a vast machine and I a cog perfectly formed to fit in it. This is not to say that my education was always easy for me. When Ma and I moved to the U.S., I spoke only a few words of English and for a very long time, I struggled.
What Annette didn't understand was that silence could be a great protector. I couldn't afford to cry when there was no escape. Talking about my problems would only illuminate the lines of my unhappiness in the cold light of day, showing me, as well as her, the things I had been able to bear only because they had been half hidden in the shadows. I couldn't expose myself like that, not even for her.
Brains are beautiful.
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Book description
Ah-Kim Chang and her mother immigrate to Brooklyn, where they work for Kim's Aunt Paula in a Chinatown clothing factory earning barely enough to keep them alive; however, Kim's perseverance and hard work earns her a place at an elite private school where she is befriended by Annette, who helps her adjust to American culture.
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Emigrating with her mother from Hong Kong to Brooklyn, Kimberly Chang begins a secret double life as an exceptional schoolgirl during the day and sweatshop worker at night, an existence also marked by her first crush and the pressure to save her family from poverty.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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