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Girl in Translation Paperback – Bargain Price, May 3, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
When the story starts Kimberly is a middle school age girl who speaks and reads some English but not enough to create any real level of understanding of her surroundings. Her mother speaks almost no English. They've just arrived and their mother's sister (herself with a story that I won't spoil) has arranged an apartment and a job. The apartment is a heat-less, roach and rodent infested slum tenancy, and the job working at a sweatshop making pennies for long hours. The Chinese culture is front and center here and it is interesting to understand why Kimberly and her mom would agree to these conditions. The sense of duty, of obligation, runs strong - and they have very little other options and no choices. It certainly brought me back to stories my grandparents talked about as immigrants themselves and how they arrived in America and the struggles they faced. I think many of us have lost this sense of our past, of the struggles of our ancestors and how it really was when you arrived at Ellis Island (or how it could be)
As time passes they manage by making noises to frighten the various other non human tenants of their apartment and tape garbage bags to the broken window panes.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Kwok's writing is clear and touching - I loved the way she used and then simply translated Chinese idioms to remind us of the different mindset Kimberly and her mother had. Her explanation of the struggles over the simplest things were so touching - how missing only a few words kept Kimberly lost in school, the assumptions her teachers made about her ability to do things like create posters ("with what supplies"?) or watch the evening news made me question things I have seen in schools, and the assumptions many of us make about the lives of those around us. Kimberly's friend Annette's discussion with her father and decision that Kimberly must be lying about working in a sweatshop because "kids don't work in factories in America" made me question the provenance of every item of clothing in my closet. Deeply, deeply, affecting.
The last quarter or so of the book, when Kimberly and Matt's relationship becomes deeper, was where Kwok lost me. I won't say more for fear of spoilers, but I felt that she acted out of character and plot decisions were made for unnecessary drama. The epilogue was sappy and overdone.
Those things, however, don't diminish the excellence of most of the book. This novel genuinely challenged me to think differently, and that's a rarity.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Loved reading about this girl's journey from her roots to N.Y City. The entwined relationships were thoughtfully developed and believable...a most enjoyable story.Published 6 days ago by Susan Smith
I really liked this book - was hoping for a sequel - very interesting and dynamic characters. Great book.Published 14 days ago by B. Guevin
The book starts out in an engaging manner, but falls apart at the end. Not worth reading the last 40 pages.Published 1 month ago by Peter Redmayne
Really enjoyed this book, a story that really shows the ups and downs of life and how commitment and perseverance will overcome challenges and hard ship. Great inspiring story.Published 2 months ago by Marita
Terrific story. Couldn't put it down. I'm so glad she made the right choice. She truly is a smart girl!Published 2 months ago by Jeanmarie Mayfield
Enlightening and inspiring ! This character is strong, intelligent, resourceful and full of grace in a world that is unwelcoming to immigrants.Published 2 months ago by Mary-Ann Chaffet
When eleven-year-old Kimberly Chang first arrives in America, life is utterly like anything she's ever known before. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Joanna M