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Girl in Translation Paperback – Bargain Price, May 3, 2011
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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
I read this book and fell in love wth the character, knowing she represented many immigrants who legally entered our country and wanting to fit in and be successful!Published 1 day ago by Amazon Customer
This is a fast paced book that is both depressing and entertaining to read. It is definitely a "chick'flick" book, and will be a chick-flick when it is made into a movie. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Jane Truesdale
Great book. It tells the story of a young girl and her mother struggling to survive as immigrants in Brooklyn. The book is filled with their triumphs and difficulties. Read morePublished 10 days ago by amazon user
Helps develop understanding and compassion for other cultures trying to assimilate in the U.S. and story line is spell-binding.Published 15 days ago by CPMH
It's a touching narrative about a Chinese family that immigrated to America. It's a story about dedication to family, determination and hope for the future. Read morePublished 18 days ago by A L Fraz
Girl in Translation was a read in which you did not want to put down. It was very touching and reminded me a lot about what my parents went through when they came to America. Read morePublished 19 days ago by Jess Nguyen
We were very surprised this "18 and up" rated book was assigned as summer reading to our 15 year old high school teenager. Read morePublished 23 days ago by Linda J
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. Read more