Customer Review

102 of 118 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but not as deep as it could've been, July 21, 2010
This review is from: Girl in Translation (Hardcover)
I enjoyed the story and I did finish it with some feeling of attachment to the main character.

Having said that, I think the author treated the adolescent immigrant experience a bit too superficially for the story to have been truly satisfying. I compare the story to Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep, another 1st person autobiographical but fictional account of a teenager trying to fit into a "foreign" culture, and Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone, and wish that Girl in Translation could've read as deeply as those two books. I also write this with personal knowledge of the Chinese immigrant experience - my mother too worked in a garment factory and we lived in a roach-infested apartment, had to rely on doing well in school to get out of poverty, etc. - but I didn't feel that this story captured the deeper issues that come along with growing up in such an environment. The book focused too much on the poverty (way too many descriptions of the cold apartment and roaches and rats) and Kimberly's academic performance. When I was growing up I struggled alot with identity issues (cultural; familial (my role in the family since as a child I was given adult responsibility)), idealism (the painfully disappointing realization that my life was different from that of my American friends), a sense of not belonging anywhere (feeling neither Chinese nor American), resentment against my parents, the very people who were sacrificing for me (for being expected to be the adult, for being pushed to excel at school without emotional support) and guilt (for wanting freedom, hating my life, not respecting my parents (because I started to look down on them for needing me), wanting to be American), etc. The issues that immigrant children and teens face are ENORMOUS and complex and the book didn't really touch on these themes.

So, without the necessary depth, this story became, to me anyway, another story of an Asian American "whiz kid" - the kid who comes to the US with little or no English and money and then rises to the top academically and professionally.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 21, 2011 10:35:13 PM PDT
thedancenut says:
Thank you for your perspective. I found it very helpful.

Posted on Jun 19, 2012 9:41:40 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 19, 2012 9:42:57 AM PDT
I have a friend who is still dealing with these issues in adulthood. Her father passed away a few years ago from cancer and now her mother relies on her children for many little things (not financial though as her father made sure she would be taken care of). My friend is stressed because her siblings have moved and she shoulders a lot of things now... in a way she is not able to live her own life. Her mother is very set in status and makes it known that her daughter is "not good enough" because she doesn't have a powerhouse job or a huge house, a husband, tons of money, etc. However, my friend doesn't need or necessarily want those things. She's content with what she has. What matters to her are the relationships, but her family doesn't seem to share the same interest. I was wondering if anyone knew of any good books that might help her deal with issues such as you posted in your review. I know she is dealing with them even though it's mostly unspoken. She has taken sort of a cynical perspective on things, and I am concerned it's going to completely change her into a coldhearted, antisocial, angry person.

Posted on Nov 4, 2012 12:59:57 PM PST
reid says:
I totally hear what you're saying and those themes highlighted are extremely important and worth more than a book or two. However I think one of the main points of this story, like it or not, is about none of that. It's about 2 people who are so deeply drawn to each other and who's lives are so intricately woven and yet no matter what cannot be together. The main character's commitment to herself and to being true to who she is her ultimate compass. So while I agree I think you are missing the point of the story.
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