Girl In Translation

Being foreign in a new big city, has its perks and challenges. In the book, Girl In Translation a novel written by Jean Kwok, shows how a girl named Kimberly Chang along with her mother emigrate to the Chinatown area of Brooklyn, New York. The main character Kimberly is stuck between a double life, by day she is a preppy school girl and at night she works illegally at a sweatshop, along with her mother. This book will thrive and inspire the reader. Kimberly Chang wants to grow up and live the American dream.

Kimberly is only eleven years old when she and her mother, Ma, arrive from Hong Kong in search of a better life. Since moving to Brooklyn, New York from Hong Kong, Kimberly ends up in a world where she doesn’t understand anything at all. Her mother and herself struggle to survive as they are starting a new life. Ma, works at a local sweatshop owned by her sister. Living a double life Kimberly attends a preppy school. At this preppy school she meets white rich kids, who she develops really close relationships with. Although she is careful that she keeps the boundary of their friendship at school. “Going to the factory after school would become something so automatic that sometimes, even when I needed to go someplace else years later, I would find myself on the trains to the factory by accident, as if that were the place to which all roads led.” Kimberly feels embarrassed that she has to work in a sweatshop after school, she doesn’t want her friends at her preppy school to know that she is in poverty. However, at the sweatshop she does meet a boy named Matt, who is around the same age as Kimberly. Throughout the story they develop an interesting relationship with its ups and downs.

Jean Kwok the author of this book, Girl In Translation is an amazing author. She writes books that have to do with her real life past experiences, but she incorporates them into fiction. The use of words and descriptive language, allows the reader to go into depth with what they are reading. It allows them to imagine certain scenes and chapters of the book as if you were watching a movie or there experiencing it. I feel like the language that she uses makes the book feel so much more realistic. Sometimes I forget that this book is a novel and that it is fiction, even though some things are aspired from Jean Kwok’s life, there are times when I feel like I am reading her diary. I really appreciate Jean Kwok as an author because she loves writing about her experience and culture. In a way I feel like I can relate to her and her experiences. I feel like anyone can read her books and take along the message that she is trying to bring through when she write these books. Jean Kwok’s writing leaves me to inhale a lot about what happened in the last chapter. There are times when you say to yourself  “I want to watch this as a movie.” Also, there aren’t many novels or cultural inspired books out there, so it would be good for more people to find and read books similar to “Girl In Translation.”

Jean Kwok has recently written a second book, similar to Girl In Transition, called “Mambo In Chinatown”. I haven’t read the book myself, but I have read excerpts from the book. This book is very similar to the “Girl In Translation” because the setting of both books take place in Chinatown of New York. Both books share stories about Chinese Americans and the themes behind both books is love. Jean Kwok wants her readers to really know about the Chinese American culture. She wants the readers to know how it’s not always easy being at the bottom, but slowly you will find your way up. Through these two books she shows how love outshines all hardships.

There are many themes that are discussed in this novel, however, I believe that the main theme is the struggle of surviving and love. We can see this theme everyday in our daily lives. You can see how Kimberly struggles with survival. She doesn’t live or work at the best conditions. But at the time and situation that she is in, all she can do is try to make the most of it. At school, she disguises who she is at her home situation because she is ashamed and embarrassed by the staggering truth of how impoverished she is, compared to the other kids at school. Love is the main struggle for Kimberly and throughout this book. She has many different relationships with different people in her life. Some are harder than others and some work out and others don’t. Kimberly has to deal with what she can have or can not have. She finds the true meaning of love with her mother and Matt. Jean Kwok doesn’t leave the ending without one of the biggest plot twist. You’ll just have to read to find out!

Title: Girl In Translation

Author: Jean Kwok

Publisher: Riverhead Trade (May 3, 2011)

Number of Pages: 320 pages

Genre: Fiction

Creative piece: For my creative piece I decided to draw different images and pictures that are important, and very concentrated in the book. I also wrote some important quotes that connected with the main themes in the book.  


Comments (4)