Girl in Translation

Author: Jean Kwok

Published by: Riverhead Books (2010)

Kimberly Chang and her mother move from China to New York through the help and efforts of her aunt. In order to survive, both Kim and her mother work at the sewing factory the aunt runs and live (squat) in an absolutely awful apartment with subpar conditions.

Kim is befriended by Annette, in elementary school, who becomes her best friend up until university. At the sewing factory, she meets Matt, and strikes up a very special bond. While working at the factory, she excels in elementary school and receives a scholarship to a private school. In school, which she attends with Annette, she discovers the world and realizes the budding love she has for one special boy.

I didn’t want to give too much away because the story is riveting. This is a quick read – I could not put the book down. What I particularly enjoyed about this story was the author’s authenticity which were illustrated in the details; the sections of the novel that described the thick dustiness from the factory was so real, I almost choked on the dust myself. The immigrant experience was not something I could relate to, growing up in a primarily Latino neighborhood, but could empathize with attending both high school and university filled with primarily African-Americans or Caucasians.

After I finished the story, I had to look up where fiction and reality met in the novel. Jean Kwok has a website in which she describes her process, the story, and how truth and fantasy were combined to create such a well read novel.

I suggest this book to anyone looking to learn about the immigrant experience and love.


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