girl in translation review

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.

This book staggered me. An own voices

Also, I am currently a private English as a foreign language tutor for a couple of kids. Reading about Kim’s difficulties with English really made me empathise with my students. I know that they are incredibly intelligent, but reading about the difficulties of expressing yourself in another language really made me think about their experiences and the role that I am playing in their lives. Not to say that I didn’t empathise with them before – to some extent, I understand the culture shock that comes with being an immigrant – but it made me even more aware of their dedication and intelligence.

Really made me aware of my privilege

Kimberly is a true inspiration = though maybe playing into stereotypes?

End was a bit abrupt

I am definitely going to read Jean Kwok’s other book, Mambo in Chinatown, at some point! I have to say, I am thoroughly enjoying my foray into more Asian literature this month.

NB: This is my choice for the Poor/Working class Asian MC square for Asian Lit bingo


5 thoughts on “girl in translation review

  1. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

    I love the format of this post. It’s a bit stream-of-consciousness. It helps me better understand your mental process for processing through books. Can you elaborate a bit more about how Kimberly’s character might be playing into stereotypes and why that caught your eye?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Grab the Lapels says:

      I wanted to know more about this, too. Depending on the time period, it might have been what was normal in the culture, much the same way children worked in horrible conditions in the U.S. before we constructed labor laws.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. speedyreader says:

    Thanks for the review. I’m always looking for books that are set in the working class, since almost everything seems to be about the middle class or wealthy. This one sounds like it really has some stuff to say about living on the edge of poverty.


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