2018 Oct 19
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.
In Girl in Translation, Jean Kwok introduces a fresh new voice; that of a Chinese immigrant in America, navigating the new world she is thrust into. Kimberly Chang, or Ah-Kim as she is fondly called by her mother, is a character fleshed out so well she comes to life on the page. From the start, every reader will undoubtedly get invested in her character. She is realistically written as a character who has to handle both her worlds (that of her ‘normal’ school life amongst friends, and her poverty-stricken family life with days spent slaving at a sweatshop) whilst balancing studies, and having the regular desires and raging hormones that come with being a teenage girl!
The storyline will tug at your heartstrings and is yet neither predictable nor simply pages filled with grief. It is the realistic story of a mother and daughter struggling to survive in a world where not much seems to go their way – yet joyful, touching, and filled with enough entertainment to keep it going. Personally, the ending felt a bit rushed and every reader may have varied thoughts on how the final chapter and epilogue unfolds. Nevertheless, the story simply shows us a side to life that not many know about – yet exists within America as well. All in all, an incredibly eye-opening novel.