Release Date: May 4th, 2011
Genre: Adult Contemporary, Cultural Fiction
Source: I own a copy of this book
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.
So I’m not really in a gushing mood and I’m going to keep this fairly short, but y’all should know how fantastic this book is. I rarely give out 5 star ratings, so that should be an indicator of how special I thought this book was. I see that many people I know have already read it, so you know what I’m talking about. For those that don’t, you’re going to want to get on that.
The one thing that blew me away the most about Girl in Translation was the voice. Holy @*&(*&#($@@. It was freaking fantastic. The voice of the character Kimberley will seriously make you feel like you are in her head. Right in there like a little neuron. Shut up and stop making fun of me. I am completely wowed by the fact that this is Jean Kwok’s debut novel. I don’t know if this was a one-time thing or if she intends to write another book, but oh my god, I hope it’s not the first one. It’s just that I know this story was similar to her own experiences so maybe she sort of meant for it to be a pseudo-memoir and she’s not going to write again, but oh god I hope not. I nearly die every day Arthur Golden doesn’t write another book, I don’t think I can take it with this author too.
Oh yeah. I was writing a book review. So the way this book made me feel. Dude. I cried like five times. Mostly when good things happened to Kimberley. Because her life was such shit and she and her mother had it so hard that when something good DID happen, the reader (me) really felt it. I fell in love with Kimberley as a little girl and I watched her grow throughout the course of the novel and I just felt like I was living life through her eyes. This was an extremely emotional read for me.
Another thing you should know is the tremendous crossover appeal this book has. It isn’t a YA book. But I definitely think it is a book YA readers would enjoy. Even if you only read YA, if you are ever thinking of reading outside the genre, this should be the book you pick up. Kimberley spends most of the book as a child and a teen, and only towards the end is she an adult. Make no mistake though, this is not an easy read. It’s pretty depressing in parts. But like I said, when good things happen to her (and they do), it is sooo worth it.
This book follows Kimberley’s life as she grows up as a new Chinese immigrant living in New York City. You follow her though her hardships and successes, like growing up in a cockroach and rat infested apartment with no heat. Hearing about cockroaches is frickin’ gross. I have a cockroach phobia, and let me tell you, that was not fun for me to read. But I did. And I loved it. She basically works in a sweatshop in Chinatown as a child so her and her mother can afford rent to live in an apartment that is illegal to live in. There’s a bit of romance too. And it’s not an easy road for them. Good things happen in the story. Eventually. I won’t spoil those for you. But funnily enough, this book has a very simple plot. It’s subtle but it’s amazing. I think it’s a fantastic book about the immigrant experience. It makes me want to read more.
It’s hard with 5 star reviews. I hate writing them. I feel like I didn’t say enough. But there was literally nothing wrong with this book. I could gush and gush, but really, if the subject interests you, you need to read it. And if you already have? I would love your comments down there so you can articulate why YOU loved it so much. Because I am having a difficult time putting it in words. Note: Please excuse the mess of thoughts in this review.