Girl in Translation

Girl in Translation

by Jean Kwok
4.2 253

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Girl in Translation 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 253 reviews.
retromom More than 1 year ago
This is a nice coming-of-age story. It's also a debut novel but sure does not read like this is the author's first novel. Kimberly Chang and her mother immigrate from Hong Kong to New York to what they hope will be a better life. However, they are sponsored by Kimberly's aunt and uncle who put them to work in their sweatshop as repayment for their trip to America. They are put up in an abandoned apartment building owned by the aunt and uncle. They live in squalor among roaches and rats with the oven providing the only heat in the apartment. It doesn't take Kimberly long to realize the only way out of their situation is through her education. Kimberly studies hard and is given a scholarship to a top school where she excels. Kimberly, who is quite mature for her age, is caught up between the world of poverty in which she lives and the world of her classmates, who mostly come from well to do families. She struggles to keep her life at home a secret from her classmates. I really appreciated the relationship between Kimberly and her mother. They both counted on each other to survive. When life took a bad turn they were really there for each other. I liked this book a lot. It wasn't a rosy coming-of-age story like one might think it would be. I could feel the struggles, pride, and heartbreak that Kimberly and her mother both must have felt. I highly recommend this book!
Kay2001 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book even though reading it made me sad and very angry. I know America is a great country but the ways that our immigrants were and are treated makes me mad. They are lied to and taken advantage of though in this book Kim and her mother were lied to and taken advantage of by their own blood which makes it even worse. I will never understand how people can sit back knowing this kind of stuff is going on and not lift a finger to help. Why is it so easy to turn a blind eye to other people's suffering? It's just not right. I admire Kim, the way she works so hard at school and then the factory to help her mother. She is determined to succeed and get her mother into a better situation. She is devoted to her mother and always puts her first. That is a trait that I believe more Americans need to work on. Kim's struggles in school with a teacher who really didn't give a crap tore my heart out and made me want to slap his face. But she overcomes, she moves upward and onward and never looses sight of her dreams. Kim is a very strong person who knows what she wants. Even though it is hard work getting there she never once gives up. I loved her friendship with Annette. Every one of us would be blessed to have a friend like that. One who sticks by you through thick and thin without judging, just is there to love and support. The ending for me was happy and sad and I will not go into detail because it would give too much away. If you haven't read this book, read it. I have no doubt it will make an impression on everyone who reads it.
Shearon More than 1 year ago
Back in 2000 when my daughter was in sixth grade I started a mother-daughter book group. We read a number of coming of age novels: stories about girls growing up and discovering the world and themselves; and with the strong and smart ones overcoming all kinds of adversity and often with bittersweet endings of lessons learned and prices paid for (ultimately) good, but hard decisions made. Girl in Translation fits that description perfectly. Kimberly Chang and her mother arrive in the United States from Hong Kong in the mid 1990's when she is eleven. Poor and owing money to unscrupulous relatives, they are set up in a horrid apartment and her mother is given a job in a sweatshop clothing factory. Kimberly is a very smart, driven girl and strives to overcome language and cultural barriers. She eventually gets into a private school where her intellectual abilities are recognized and nurtured. But outside school she leads a very different life from her privileged New York classmates: she works at the factory for hours after school to help support herself and her mother and comes home to an unheated, insect and rodent infested apartment where they are forced to keep the oven on just to keep from freezing to death. Kimberly is also straddling the differences between the insular Chinese culture of her family, the factory and Chinatown and the broader world that her exceptional intelligence opens up to her. She finds love with a Chinese boy, also struggling to support his family, but whose sights for his own life and theirs together are so less ambitious and more traditional than hers that she has to make a heart-wrenching and life altering decision as to which path to follow. I highly recommend this book for young adult readers, especially young women, although many others will enjoy it too. The author creates believable and interesting characters. We get a look into the immigrant experience, including the reality for many of prejudice, poverty and sweatshop employment. And the story ends not happily ever after, but reflecting the joys and sorrows of life's choices. And as for my book group: the girls went to college in 2006 and will be graduating this spring. But even after ten years, the mothers still meet just about monthly to drink wine - and discuss books. I think we will read this one.
-JACKI- More than 1 year ago
Despite her young age, Kimberly Chang, an exceptionally intelligent young girl, enjoys none of the carefree privileges of childhood. Attending an elite private school on full scholarship while working in a sweatshop and living in squalor and hardship, Kimberly exists in two parallel worlds, and becomes a keen observer of each. She was brought to Brooklyn by her widowed immigrant mother with only basic command of English. A poignant, moving novel worth reading!
ChrisLI276 More than 1 year ago
This book has an authenticity that many other "immigrant" novels lack. It almost seemed as if the author had firsthand knowledge about the kind of dire poverty that her main characters lived in. Without shying away from the ugliness of their situation, the author chooses to celebrate their strengths and you find yourself rooting for the heroine as she overcomes her depressing situation against insurmountable odds.
SiobhanMFallon More than 1 year ago
A cultured, violin-playing mother and her gifted eleven-year-old daughter flee Hong Kong and arrive in New York, full of the American dream. Within weeks they are living in a rat infested, unheated apartment and working in a searing sweat shop. Welcome to the world of Girl in Translation where life is never as it seems, from the supposedly welcoming aunty who quickly shackles her own sister and niece into near-slavery, to young Kimberly's charming protector who is the only person with the power to destroy her carefully crafted life. Jean Kwok has written a beautiful novel that is more than a coming-of-age story about succeeding in America, this story IS America, with its pride and its shame, its love story and heartbreak, its contradictions and glimpses into secret worlds from Chinatown to elite Manhattan prep schools. All of it tied together by the story of a mother who makes sacrifice after sacrifice for her child, but it is the child who sacrifices the most in return.
mysteriesformeCA More than 1 year ago
I was intrigued by the jacket synopsis of this book and the book cover. The story was interesting, I finished it in two days, but there was no emotion, no splashes of color, it seemed almost a monotone recital of Kim's life. At the end I felt disappointed that there wasn't more...something to make me smile about a remembered passage, something to help me remember why I read it. Certainly not worth the $$ in these economic times.
BLUEEYEBE More than 1 year ago
This is an unforgettable, wonderful coming of age story of heartbreak and triumph of one Chinese-American who makes a life for herself and her family in a new country. There is tragedy, touched briefly, in some places, but all in all, it was a fascinating, and enlightening read.
Teacher-Readerdc More than 1 year ago
At the age of 11, Kimberly and her mother move to America from Hong Kong expecting the American dream in New York City. Instead, their Aunt has brought them to a dismal existence in a condemned, rat infested building. Here Kimberly tries to do well in school and improve the conditions for her and her mother. Kimberly meets many obstacles; language barrier, working at the sweatshop with her mother at night, and ridicule from her peers. This unforgettable story has everything that will keep you turning page after page.
MarieBurton More than 1 year ago
A child and her mother come to America, 'the Golden mountain', in hopes for a better life, escaping the threats of a communist Hong Kong. Knowing little English and nothing of the American culture, Kim is thrust into the taunting and hateful school environment at age eleven. At the same time, Kim and her mother are beholden to a jealous aunt who makes them work long hours in a factory doing sewing work. They live in squalor, amongst roaches and rats, in the projects of Brooklyn, yet with not many neighbors because the place has been condemned. The one saving grace for Kim is her intelligence and ability to catch on quickly. Kim makes a single friend who gets her through the days, and her mother never veers from her duty to try as hard as she can, although much of it is futile as they endure one freezing winter after another without any heat. Kim grows older and wiser, and surpasses the others at her school with stellar grades, and eventually gets accepted to Yale. Kim is forced to make a devastating choice go to Yale and leave her family obligations behind, or to accept her position in life as an immigrant forever trying to ingratiate herself into a foreign society. Well told with a blunt passion for the subject matter, I wonder how close the story is to the author's own experiences. The racism is an underlying current, but not forced upon us as this is truly one young woman's story of surviving New York with little assistance and becoming an accomplished adult despite of it. It is also the story of young love and the repercussions of the romantic liaisons. There were a myriad of characters offered, from schoolmates to teachers to employers, and each one was an important part to Kim's story. I enjoyed the novel and recommend for anyone wishing for a light and quick read that moves fast. I read this novel in a quick page flipping all-nighter so that I could learn what happens to these strong characters who had endeared themselves to me so quickly. Jean Kwok delivers a powerfully told story of a coming of age story that holds nothing back and gives everything expected, and more. With promise of much success from this new author, Girl In Translation has already been selected as an Indie Next List Pick as well as a Blue Ribbon featured pick for many book clubs.
gl More than 1 year ago
When Kimberly Chang and her widowed mother move to New York from Hong Kong, they are heavily in debt and dependent on her aunt for housing and employment. The adjustment is tough - she'd previously at the top of her class in Hong Kong and well loved but now finds herself looked at with suspicion by her new teacher Mr. Bogart. Kimberly doesn't let Mr. Bogart's disdain keep her down. Her days brighten when she makes friends of her own: Matt, another Chinese kid working at the garments factory, and Annette, a friendly girl in her class in school who shares her sense of humor. The details of Kimberly's life would be depressing but for Kimberly's attitude and spirit. Kimberly and her mother have each other and when they're together, the smallest things cheer them up and give them hope. Living in a condemned and rodent infested apartment without heat, the two Changs somehow make it through. As Kimberly slowly finds ways to improve their situation, you'll find yourself touched by this story of sacrifice, love, loyalty, and perseverance. I loved Girl in Translation - Kimberly's story and her voice stayed with me long after I finished the book. I've been fortunate to find a lot of good books in the last year, but this one stands out. ISBN-10: 1594487561 - Hardcover Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (April 29, 2010), 304 pages. Review copy provided by the publisher.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I've read in a long time. Great character development- I really became very fond of each one. I never post a review or rating. I felt compelled to do it on this book. Am recommending to friends and family.
tarheelreaderbl More than 1 year ago
I just finished Girl in Translation-couldn't put it down until the end! What a beautiful story and a reminder of hardships everwhere. I want my rising high school senior to read it-this is an inspiring example of how anyone can make it and how there are really no excuses for failure. Hard to believe this is a debut novel-can't wait to read more from Jean Kwok.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Great advice on how struggling helps us to become stronger and capable to achieve our goals. Struggles are a blessing.
Anonymous 9 months ago
I enjoyed this story of struggle with determination with mother and daughter.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Too long. The main character has all these trials and trribulations but you get tiredd of reading abouut them. The end just ends as if the writer got bored, too!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not put the book down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There was sexual content in the book. Definitely DO NOT recommend!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it, loved it, loved it! Truly inspirational and impossible to put down. The author's life story makes it even more admirable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Paperback_Princess More than 1 year ago
My Secret Reader for the month of October picked this book out for me, and I was a little bit bummed at first. I had gotten the book years ago when Borders was shutting down after a recommendation from a friend. Back then I was hardly even looking at YA books and had been reading a fair amount of adult literature. This was also prior to my discovery of Goodreads and the way all the pretty covers can make me want books. Anyway, I was a little bummed because I was hoping I could knock off some older YA books I haven't read yet, but I was delighted to read this book. Girl in Translation was the best way to break up the monotony that YA can bring. I didn't have to worry about the cute guy being part stalker part hunk, or even entertain the idea of instalove. This book was everything that I miss about adult reading. It was evenly paced and beautifully written and while there was no big plot line where some big bad is lurking in the corner, it was a simple and heartbreaking tale about a girl who came to America with big dreams, and while it got hard at times, she never gave up. I really adored Kimberly and how witty she was. All the Chinese insults were fresh and interesting and while you couldn't always get what they meant right away, an explanation wasn't too far behind. I also loved that while the characters were speaking in Chinese, the text was in English never leaving me to puzzle out what was being said or having to wait for the author to provide a halfhearted explaination. I felt that each of the characters were wonderfully written and characterized. They were all their own unique person and not carbon copies of each other. While they were frustrating or down right awful, it was great to have people be so different. I felt that all the descriptions of all the characters were wonderful, I could vividly see many of them in my mind. I really enjoyed this book and I'm glad that my Secret Reader picked it for me!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed reading this story about hard work and success
umemaru More than 1 year ago
Jean Kwok's first novel tells of a young girl from Hong Kong and her violinist mother and their extreme hardships on emigrating form Hong Kong to New York City. Girl In Translation is a book that I did not enjoy reading yet it stuck with me as it rang true to my view of my immigrant grandparents and my father and aunts: my grandmother especially, though fluent in English, was often intimidated by people and situations years after coming here, even if in many cases there was no malice involved. My father and his sisters, on the other hand, wanted only to fit in as they saw that as the way to social and other success. Although I think there is much ignorance and sometimes cruelty in the American treatment of immigrants the enslavement of Kim and her mother by their aunt surpassed those of others. I have read of such treatment in news stories and thus realize that they are not untrue. Kwok's description of the physical horrors of cold, filth and vermin are chilling as are conditions in the clothing factory which the aunt runs. Thus the kindnesses extended to Kim by friends there and at her schools are more effecting. The one weakness that I see is the 'Twelve years Later' part of the book yet as it is somewhat of an epilogue the rags to riches element is simply the outcome and Kwok does relate difficulties that exist as the result of earlier choices. Upon reflection this is a strong and cleverly told tale and I think teenage girls and openminded boys--those who would read a book about girls--and anyone interested in the immigrant experience or a whacking good tale are the audience for this book.