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Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

Girl in Translation (edition 2011)

by Jean Kwok

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1,3131275,926 (3.95)93
Title:Girl in Translation
Authors:Jean Kwok
Info:Riverhead Trade (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
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Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok


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English (126)  Dutch (3)  Finnish (1)  All languages (130)
Showing 1-5 of 126 (next | show all)
I loved this book!
Kimberley Chang and her mother emigrated from Hong Kong to Brooklyn, where they lived in terrible poverty (no heat, cockroaches and mice, broken windows). Kimberly is very smart but has difficulty with the language. Her mother never learned the language, but worked in a clothing factory where the conditions were very bad. Kim tried to help her after school.
The book really gives a clear picture of the immigrant experience. Although Kim's aunt had helped them immigrate, she is very cruel to them.
Kim falls in love with a factory boy who is only interested in making a living in Chinatown. Kim has great ambitions. She gets pregnant and doesn't tell Matt because she feels that she could not make him happy. She had met Curt in school and he is interested in her but she is not in love with him. He will marry her so that she can have the baby.
There is a 12 year gap in the story and I held my breathe for the last few pages when you discover that Kim has become a heart surgeon and is raising her son with her mother. She turned down both men.
It has a great prologue and a lovely ending.
"There is a Chinese saying that the fates are winds that blow through our lives from every angle, urging us along the paths of time. Those who are strong-willed may fight the storm and possibly choose their own road, while the weak must go where they are blown."
Apparently much of the story is biographical. ( )
  bettyroche | Jul 10, 2015 |
A straightforward but very enjoyable account of the trials and tribulations of immigration, with a particular emphasis on the language barrier. Kim and her mother arrive from Hong Kong with hardly a word of English, though Kim is gifted in science and maths. The story of how she gradually learns the language and makes a life for herself despite extreme poverty and the exploitation she and her mother are subjected to within the black economy is an eye-opener. The tribulations of adolescence and the difficulties she has with her friends (not wanting to go to their houses in case they expect a return invitation etc) are relevant in other walks of life too, but the book made me wonder - in particular - about sweatshops, and whether they are confined to the developing world or not. ( )
  jayne_charles | Apr 20, 2015 |
I'm into immigration stories these days. This is a good one, of a Chinese immigrant to New York trying to make something of herself. I just wish it had a happier ending :-( ( )
  Shiraloo | Mar 25, 2015 |
A memorable novel, beautifully told, Girl in Translation is the coming of age story of Kimberly Chang who, at the age of 11, arrives in New York with her mother. Mrs. Chang, a widow, is fearful of the handover of Hong Kong from British to communist Chinese authorities scheduled to occur in 1997 and immigrates to the United States believing she will be able to give her daughter a better life. Narrated from a child's point of view, the harrowing situation in which Kim finds herself unfolds vividly and prosaically, to wit: living in an unheated apartment in an otherwise abandoned building, working in a sweatshop in Chinatown, and attempting to learn in a classroom with a clueless, cynical teacher. Jean Kwok has a marvelous ear, periodically dropping into the dialogue the English words Kim thinks are being spoken, occasionally to hilarious effect. The conversations with Chinese peers and between mother and daughter have a unique but not stilted rhythm and are frequently "translated" so that the reader can appreciate the nuances of the Cantonese idioms. Framed as a flashback, the book's final chapters seem a bit hurried and abrupt, but this is on the whole a minor quibble. ( )
  LizHD | Mar 25, 2015 |
Highly, highly, highly recommended. A wonderful main character, no easy answers, but inspiring and wonderful all the same. ( )
  dukedukegoose | Jan 26, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 126 (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 editionsconfirmed
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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