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Mambo in Chinatown: A Novel Kindle Edition

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Length: 374 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Clumsy 22-year-old Charlie Wong had hoped to become a noodle maker, like her famous father, but instead toils away night and day as a dishwasher in New York City’s Chinatown. Her mother, once a star dancer for the Beijing Ballet, passed away when Charlie was 14, and she has spent the years since looking after her younger sister, Lisa. And it’s Lisa who recognizes that Charlie’s job saps all of her happiness and energy. Lisa encourages Charlie to accept a receptionist’s position at a ballroom dance studio in Midtown Manhattan, and, for the first time, Charlie begins to realize that she may have inherited her mother’s talent. Soon she is entirely transformed, teaching beginning students and competing in a dance competition. Not everyone is happy with the change, especially her father. Drawing on her newfound confidence, Charlie attempts to navigate the great divide between Eastern and Western cultures. In her winning second novel (after Girl in Translation, 2010), Kwok infuses her heartwarming story with both the sensuality of dance and the optimism of a young woman coming into her own. --Joanne Wilkinson


Praise for Mambo in Chinatown

“A charming fable.” —USA Today

“A riveting story . . . [one of] the season’s hottest page-turners.” —Real Simple

“In her winning second novel, Kwok infuses her heartwarming story with both the sensuality of dance and the optimism of a young woman coming into her own.” —Booklist

“Charlie’s Cinderella story, not to mention Charlie herself, is charming.”—Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

  • File Size: 1281 KB
  • Print Length: 374 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1594633223
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; Reprint edition (June 24, 2014)
  • Publication Date: June 24, 2014
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00G3L158Q
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,264 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Jean Kwok is the New York Times and international bestselling author of the award-winning novels Girl in Translation and Mambo in Chinatown. Her work has been published in 17 countries and taught in universities, colleges and high schools across the world. She has been selected for many honors including the American Library Association Alex Award, the Chinese American Librarians Association Best Book Award, and Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers. Jean's writing has been featured in Time, The New York Times, USA Today, Newsweek, The Chicago Tribune, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue, People, Real Simple and O, The Oprah Magazine, among others.

Jean immigrated from Hong Kong to Brooklyn when she was five and worked in a Chinatown clothing factory for much of her childhood while living in an unheated, roach-infested apartment. In between her undergraduate degree at Harvard and MFA in fiction at Columbia, she worked for three years as a professional ballroom dancer. Jean lives in the Netherlands with her husband, two boys and three cats, and is working on her next novel.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Robert G Yokoyama VINE VOICE on March 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Mambo In Chinatown is about how the life of a twenty-two year old Chinese woman is transformed when she becomes a professional ball room dancer and dance instructor. I admire ball room dancer because of the athletic ability they possess. I have never done ball room dancing, but I enjoy visualizing all the spins, lifts and turns that Jean Kwok describes. I really like the title because I never thought Chinese people were known for being good ball room dancers.

Charlie is a strong lead female character. She starts the novel as a clumsy dish washer. But through hard work and determination, she becomes a graceful ball room dancer. The professional chemistry and romance that develops between Charlie and her dance partner is a lovely relationship that develops in the novel. I learned that having a background in tai chi and boxing could help someone become a graceful dancer.

I also like the relationship between Charlie and her younger sister Lisa. They are sisters, but because of an eleven year age difference their relationship is more like of a mother and daughter. This relationship is beautiful. Charlie feels enormous pressure about having to be both a sister and a mother at the same time. This is an aspect that makes Charlie's character so fascinating. I like reading how she tries to juggle two different roles.

I am half Chinese. So personally, I found the elements of Chinese culture included in this novel are fun to read. Kwok makes a reference to using the mugwort herb in acupuncture treatments. I have never tried this before, but I wonder if it would help me with my back and joints. She also makes a reference to eating caterpillar soup as a cure for the common cold.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Dawn Kessinger VINE VOICE on March 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Upon finishing Mambo in Chinatown, I felt like I'd stepped out of a fairy tale. There's something so captivating about Charlie, her family and her story - it's like hearing a catchy new song for the first time and realizing halfway through you're tapping your foot, completely lost in the rhythm of it.

Mostly, the story is about Charlie's transformation from hard-working, almost invisible, ugly duckling girl to beautiful, confident swan. It's fun and satisfying traveling with her through her transformation; her innocence and first experiences wearing pretty, fashionable clothes, learning difference dances with both professionals and her own competition student, helping friends, standing up to her father, falling in love, and trying to save her sister are all believable and unravel at a good pace.

The secondary characters - Charlie's increasingly ill little sister, Lisa; her good-hearted and hard-working but still grief-stricken father who believes tradition is the only way to move forward; her uncle Henry who is a doctor; her Godmother, with whom she helps teach a tai chi class; her old friend, Zan, who desperately wants to earn her drivers license and get out of Chinatown; and new friends at the dance studio who help her flourish in the dance world: Nina, Adrienne, Julian, and Mateo; her first dance students Naomi and Ryan; and the witch called the Vision and her assistant, young Todd, all feel colorful and alive, add to the story and feel important to Charlie's transformation.

There are no loose ends or cliff-hangers at the end, which was smooth and hopeful. I enjoyed everything about the book, except perhaps that it felt almost too perfect - I don't want to complain about good things happening, but the resolution of problems felt a bit too polished, neat and easy.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Mambo in Chinatown is the modern Cinderella story everyone (every girl) dreams of. Growing up in poor, restrictive circumstances, not measuring up to siblings, and no mother around to confide in the little, and large, secrets that coming of age brings. Yet an other take on a familiar theme, charmingly set in today's Chinatown (which is one of my favorite parts of the book, the descriptive powers of Kwok. Her strength in making life in Chinatown, a world within a world come to life is the reason I kept reading and was, indeed captivated. That's what pulled me in. The images of an entirely un-homogenious crowd (I LOVED the description of the "Asian" Night Club!). And yet, even in this parallel universe, she shows us the strange, different customs, values, behaviors, that underneath is held by the most familiar of all: the human desire to belong to a group. This powerful talent to depict all this by telling stories is unfortunately pushed aside by a watered down girl was raised on dreams alone, sacrificed all for younger sister story. By accident, she gets a chance to try a new life without restrictions on, seemingly at her sisters cost. Must she decide? Hunger Games, anyone? What has been done and done really well is here merely the vehicle but told too long, leaving too little space for the other actors.
What could have been a beautiful story of overcoming cultural boundaries, personal boundaries, but also a tapestry of characters and stories that weave a dense story (some glimpses of an emerging craft are everywhere in the book, the secondary characters become just too secondary). For those of us who are still ok with the one story where all is well in the end and nobody gets hurt and the Princess gets the prince and the King loves her, too... fine, you will love this.
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