Girl in Translation
by Jean Kwok
Paperback- $14.99

Introducing a fresh, exciting new voice, an inspiring debut about a Chinese immigrant girl forced to choose between two worlds and two ...

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  "Girl In Translation" by minooka2653 (see profile) 02/06/11

 
  "Girl in Translation" by Maureenbender (see profile) 02/08/11

 
  "A must read!" by Mika (see profile) 06/03/11

This book started out a little slow, but not too slow. It quickly became very interesting as it draws you into the characters. By the time I got to the middle I didn't want to put it down and the last 100 pages just suck you in. I loved it! It was better than I expected.

 
  "Enjoyable quick read while also informative" by valeriehall (see profile) 06/21/11

 
  "Inspiring story" by Elizav (see profile) 06/27/11

An inspiring story about a girl who becomes successful in life by working hard.

 
  "Inspiring Throughout" by nicolesell (see profile) 07/10/11

This book was very easy to read and hard to put down. I enjoyed the emotion and the love between the mother and daughter. I couldn’t imagine a life like theirs but I admired the ambition that Kimberly had from her childhood into adulthood.

 
  "Girl in Translation" by Gingepep (see profile) 07/24/11

 
  "Girl in Translation" by Amysue1112 (see profile) 07/28/11

I was drawn in immediately..and could not put this book down. It was sad and inspiring, fascinating and unpredictable. Just picked it for our book club because it has so many thought-provoking and sometimes controversial topics. I highly recommend it!

 
  "well written" by Abby0814 (see profile) 07/28/11

loved the story and appreciated everything more

 
  "I loved this book" by cassandrama (see profile) 07/28/11

A great read!

 
  "Girl in Translation - a fascinating read" by debbiehoch (see profile) 08/04/11

 
  "Read it straight through" by Cleo (see profile) 08/04/11

 
  "Girl In Translation" by Butterflyd (see profile) 08/05/11

Definitely a great read! This book captured my attention from beginning to end!

 
  "Girl in Translation" by fabiennepalu (see profile) 08/26/11

Really liked it. A great book to discuss with friends.

 
  "Girl in Translation" by tagray44 (see profile) 08/29/11

 
  "Girl in Translation - a Must Read" by alsgal (see profile) 08/30/11

I could barely tear myself from the pages as I read this wonderfully captivating book. I think that book clubs should read this because it really sheds some powerful insight into the plight of those working in these sweat shops and all the while opens a window into their private hopes and dreams for their family and future. Beautifully written.

 
  "Just a wonderful book...." by rocketgirl89 (see profile) 09/01/11

 
  "Translation...very slow" by ladami32 (see profile) 09/13/11

Although most of the women in book club found this to be a good read I found it to be very slow; in fact I couldn't finish the book b/c I was so bored. It was interesting to hear about the hardships and of Kimberly & her mother moving from Hong Kong to New York and the differences between to two cultures however, I stopped reading 3/4 of the way through the book b/c there was no suspense, the author never made me "want more" as I could easily put it down after a few chapters and not go back to it for days. According to others in my book club the end was very interesting but I prefer reads to be interesting from the beginning so that I'm eager to find out how it will end.

 
  "Girl In Translation" by lollygil (see profile) 09/29/11

Oub Book Club spent a wonderful evening thoroughly discussing this book and dining on Asian appetizers, desserts and drinking Plum Wine.

 
  "Kinda Similar to Others..." by Shannan (see profile) 12/12/11

I thought this book was good, but it reminded me a little of "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet".

 
  "Girl in Translation" by aperrigo (see profile) 01/09/12

Not all of us agreed that this was a great book. The writing wasn't the best, and the ending was especially weak. However, the story just sweeps you away! Kimberly Chang and her mother immigrated to Brooklyn when Kimberly was eleven years old. What was waiting for them there, neither could ever have guessed! Rather than being set up in a nice apartment by Kimberly's aunt, they are sent to the slums and forced to work in a sweatshop, making clothing. Fortunately, Kimberly has what she calls "a talent" for school. Watching her and her mother work through their struggles is an amazing ride. A real "feel good" read!

 
  "Girl in Translation" by vtreader (see profile) 01/17/12

This was a fairly quick read and a story that kept your attention all the way through. Without giving too much away, I think there is a lot of material for good book club discussion.

 
  "Girl in Translation" by marcid (see profile) 01/25/12

A moving book about perserverance, family, and triumph over life's challenges.
An emotional, moving book that is hard to put down.
That the book is semi-autobiographical in that the author also immigrated from Hong Kong to Brooklyn and worked in a family sweatshop as well as went on to Harvard and Columbia leads creedence to the story.

 
  "A modern immigration story" by maureenmorisano (see profile) 03/11/12

Jean Kwok captured her life experiences through this fictional tale of hardship, survival and triumph. Kimberly and her mother flee China, liiving in impoverished conditions and working in Manhattan's Chinatown in a clothing factory owned by her maternal aunt and uncle. Kimberly enters school with no English and no knowledge of American Culture. The author opened our eyes to the harsh life in an American clothing factory. Sad to say, we were unaware that such hardships and violations of labor laws exist in America today. Kimberly struggles to hide and survive her secret life of dire poverty in Brooklyn, NY. You will find yourself cheering for Kimberly as she works to help her mother overcome.

The members of our club are predominately teachers who work in a public school in Brooklyn. Ms. Kwok helped to open our eyes to the unknown home lives of newly arrived immigrant children, as well as their struggles to assimilate and adapt to their new homeland. I would consider this book to be a modern day version of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, with Kiimberly as Francie Nolan. A wonderful read.

 
  "The Immigrant's Double Life" by scole1414 (see profile) 04/05/12

This is a fascinating read loosely based on the author's life experience as an immigrant trying to stay alive in the U.S. and make her own American dream a reality. This is an addictive story and will likely spark many points of discussion your book club.

 
  "Girl in translation" by Radha (see profile) 04/06/12

A good book to read- a quick read too.

 
  "Girl In Transition" by Maurita (see profile) 05/15/12

 
  "" by TeCastle (see profile) 05/17/15

 
  "Decidely one-sided viewpoint presented about Chinese immigrant experience in America" by thewanderingjew (see profile) 07/29/16

Girl In Translation, Jean Kwok, author; Grace Wey, narrator.
Ah-Kim (Kimberly) Chang left China with her mother and came to America when she was 11 years old. Assisted by her ma’s elder sister, Aunt Paula, they moved into an apartment and went to work in a clothing factory, both of which she managed. The apartment was substandard, and the factory operated illegally with underage employees and unsafe conditions. The supposed kindness motivating the elder sister to help them was highly questionable as she subjected them to unfair working conditions and an apartment without heat, that was bug and rodent infested. They were immediately given a false address and told to lie and use it to enroll Kim in a middle school that was not in their district, but that the aunt said was a better school for her to attend. In actuality, the aunt was protecting herself because of the illegal activities of her business dealings. The aunt and uncle operated outside the law, unwittingly aided by the people working for them who were desperate for their jobs and unaware of their legal rights. Kim and her mother were indebted to the elder sister because they had to repay the money that purchased their papers and their air fare, with interest, and now they also had their rent to pay her, as well. They worked long hours for low wages and were thwarted in their efforts to succeed by the aunt who was jealous for many reasons, jealous of her little sister’s ability to survive and land on her feet in life and jealous of her niece’s success in school, which was greater than her own son’s abilities.
Although I felt certain that school would be difficult for Kimberly and any other immigrant who was unable to speak much English, I found it hard to understand why the school officials and teachers would have been so unkind to her. I was a teacher and although there were some bad apples, overall, teachers were kind to the students, even if some were not trained properly or of the proper mind set to help them. In this book, it felt like there was a general condemnation of the teacher’s behavior toward Ah-Kim. Of course, as in most schools, there were some students who were bullies exercising their muscle to maintain their position of power in the school. However, many of us, regardless of our color, culture, country or religion, have suffered “the slings and arrows” of the troublemakers, in our own schools, as we grew up.
The idea that Kimberly so quickly rose to the top of her class intellectually, and even socially, to some degree, without language skills and in spite of some early failures and peer problems, was admirable, but I found the portrayal of her as such a perfect person, succeeding in every way, a bit disturbing, especially when the “American” children of all stripes were portrayed as selfish, greedy, rude, without ambition, and lacking in intellect. They were involved in disrespectful behavior at home and outside the home, stealing, doing drugs and engaging in underage sexual exploits while their parents looked the other way, preoccupied with their own selfish and greedy needs. They were essentially bringing themselves up without values while Kim was influenced greatly by her mother and her excellent cultural values.
Kim and her mother were portrayed as respectful, honest, obedient, loyal and intelligent, head and shoulders above their American counterparts until Kim was corrupted by them and began also to experiment with drugs, lie, and engage in underage sex which eventually got her into trouble, altering the course of her life, a bit. Still, in spite of all the difficulties she faced, like somewhat of a “supergirl”, she dealt with disasters and turned them into bounties and was still able to obtain a free education at Yale and then go on to become a doctor and surgeon. All of this time, she and her mother were supposed to be living from hand to mouth, barely making ends meet.
I began to feel that I was reading a book that was a bit like a fairy tale, although I felt certain that there was truth in the presentation of the difficulty of being an immigrant in a new country with new ways and a new language. This book painted the Asian culture superior to its American counterpart. Kim, in her “goodness” was able to rise above all adversity, above all the obstacles placed in her path, some put there by herself and some by others. I was left wondering why she alone was singled out for success by the school and not any others, although she was the one that could not communicate well. Somehow they were able to discover, from her test scores, taken in a language she was not fully versed in, that she was of superior intellect and would succeed if given the opportunity. It made me wonder if there were others passed over that might not have had the same success, given the same advantages, not necessarily characters in the book, but rather, in real life.
Still, even when kindness and generosity was shown, there seemed to be resentment toward her which I could not fathom. Her only friend was an unusual looking girl with a talent for action and activism. The book began to feel a bit one-sided in order to paint the immigrant experience in such a way that the immigrant was shown in a very positive light without flaws that mattered, while the Americans were flawed indeed, in character, except for the American school friend, Annette, who was painted as flawed, different and a bit spoiled, depicted as well off although she attended this school in a disadvantaged area and was the only white girl there, although there were two white boys as well. Ah-Kim was the only one of Chinese descent.
The description of Kim seemed subtly designed to malign the other students for their laziness, lack of intellect and general poor behavior, while she was more deserving, worked harder and appreciated all she had, which was, in fact, almost nothing. So, while the story was engaging, it seemed a bit of a fantasy, that seemed true in some parts, but not so in others.
To be more authentic, the author used phonetic expressions and spellings to portray Ah-Kim’s effort to communicate in a world she didn’t know how to navigate. I found it distracting to hear words like Min-hat-ton as opposed to Manhattan and anthn instead of anything, and directions like go downda hall and firsdur left, and expressions like “our new student, eye presume”, and “what’s your exchus?”. I soon became accustomed to the terms like Liberty Goddess, for the Statue of Liberty, head pains for headache or big leg for rudeness, but they, too, felt distracting, especially in the audio. Perhaps a print book is necessary because there were whole sentences, at times, that sounded like gobbledygook to me because of the mispronunciations without context.
I questioned the reality and ability of a child of 11, newly arrived from China, not speaking much English, while living in an apartment that was bug and rodent infested, unheated, sparsely furnished and without any amenities, while attending school not in her own neighborhood, and taking the subway to a clothing factory so she could work long hours alongside her mother, to study and succeed as well as Kimberly did, but kudos to the immigrant that has that kind of drive and success against all odds.
The novel describes the world from the eyes of Kimberly, as she goes from her childhood to her adulthood as a surgeon. Too much of the book was heavily detailed about her experiences in school, work and romance, with too little attention paid to her development as a doctor, later on.

 
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