Naive Chinese girl, Ah-Kim Chang, and her mother immigrate to Brooklyn. Back in Hong Kong, Kimberly was an honor student and her mother was an established pianist. Here in the United States, Kimberly struggles to perfect her English while working in a Chinatown clothing factory into the wee hours of a weeknight with her mother. After leaving the sweatshop, they head to an unsuitable apartment full of roaches and without heat.
At eleven years old, America was quite a culture shock for Kimberly. She had never seen black or white people before. She was never allowed to walk barefoot. She had never even experienced hot tap water because the water in Hong Kong was cold and had to be boiled before every use. Despite these odds, Kimberly excels in academics. She was determined to create a better life for herself and mother.
This heartwarming coming-of-age story held my interest throughout the entire book. It is not the average story of hardship, but a love story of making the right choices and overcoming obstacles in life. I was pleased to discover that Chinatown, New York really does look like Hong Kong. I also learned a few Cantonese phrases while reading. I don't want to lose the purpose of a review and ruin the story, but Kim's journey of translating to English language and American culture was very well written with a perfect sequence of events. I imagine this is how every young immigrant feels, no matter his/her origin. Although the story mirrors the author's life, it is not a memoir. Thanks Jean Kwok for writing such a good debut fiction novel!
Check out the video below featuring the author, Jean Kwok, for more information.
Title: Girl In Translation
Author: Jean Kwok
Published: April 2010