Kimberly Chang, eleven-years old and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to America. Kimberly nor her mother speak much English which makes it difficult for them to function in their new life in New York. They've come in hopes of finding a better life for themselves but instead find a dump ridden and filthy Brooklyn apartment that is overrun with mice and cockroaches. The apartment has no heat and no windows which they cover with green garbage bags and leave the oven on all winter for some heat which doesn't quite fill their need.
They are forced to sleep on a dirty mattress on the floor with roaches and mice climbing all over them during the night. In the winter months they sleep under blankets made from animals with their coats and hats on but are still chilled to the bone. Not an ideal place for a growing 11-year-old.
They find work in a sweatshop working unbelievably long gruesome hours barely making enough money to cover their rent for this horrible apartment they must live in. However, Kimberly is an extremely intelligent girl academically and uses her talent to earn a place for herself and her mother in their adopted country.
Kimberly attends school but hides the staggering poverty from her friends that her mother and her must live in and concentrates on her studies. Her friends also don't realize that Kimberly is living a double life, a student by day and sweatshop worker by night and weekend.
In time Kimberly learns to translate her language in to English and her life back and forth between the two different worlds she lives in. However, Kimberly is still a young girl with feelings and emotions and as she gets a little bit older she meets a young man named Matt who also works at the sweatshop and is her age. Matt is very kind to her and her mother, often helping them complete their quota for the day. Kimberly falls in love with Matt and decides to be intimate with him but her life soon takes a turn for the worse. She has been accepted a Yale University but her hopes and dreams may soon go down the drain.
This was a well-written book with great character development and story line that kept me turning page after page. I didn't want the book to end and hope Ms. Kwok will write a sequel to Girl in Translation. This is a book everyone would enjoy.
on November 4, 2012
This was an amazing book. It reminded me of "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" except with a mother-daughter Chinese family. Although it wasn't quite to the same caliber as "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," it was an amazing read.
The characters go through so much in this story, and yet they strive for a positive attitude. In a sense, this is a coming of age novel about Kimberly as she tries to balance her life helping her mother work at a sweatshop, their atrocious apartment, and the American way of life (which includes some teasing at school!).
I loved how determined Kimberly and her mother are, all the things I learned about Chinese life and immigrant life, and the ending. I highly recommend this book to anyone that has an interest in immigrants, other cultures, and those that just want to read an inspiring book!
on June 6, 2015
Excellent book! Fast paced and interesting, I didn't want it to end. The author draws you into the life of Kimberley Chang as she struggles to make a life for herself and her mother, knowing that eventually everything rests on her shoulders (or her brains!). She is fully aware of the responsibilities she has in helping her mother make enough money to live on, yet yearns for the freedom that friends at school have. It's how she balances the two, and her growing disdain for the aunt who forces them to live as they do, that form the core of this book. It's as much a story as it is a character study. The main characters are also likeable, which makes the reader want to cheer them on, especially in the confrontations with the aunt. The only thing which puzzled me was why the aunt chose to act as she did - controlling, exploitive, jealous, and to an extent cruel. There is a brief explanation of this when the past history of the two sisters' marriages are revealed, but I didn't accept this as the sole reason for the extent of the aunt's jealous actions. She is too one-sided for my liking. However, all the other characters were well drawn
Girl in Translation is a wonderful coming of age story about a young girl coming to America to carve a place for both herself and her mother. Young Kim has a tough job ahead of her, working hard in school and then in her ruthless aunt's sweatshop to keep her small family in a run down tenement in Brooklyn. Defying the difficult conditions, working in the spirit that built this country, will she emerge from poverty to achieve her goals? This was a wonderful book, filled with a tender romance, and fraught with setback after heart wrenching setbacks. The predicament of the immigrants is as pitiful as it is shameful, that in this great country such abuse could occur. Kim's every victory is a shared triumph and a joy to read. I loved this book. it is a testament to the human spirit, filled with hope and though it is laced with heartache, the message of survival is not lost in translation. Beautifully and authentically written, this book ultimately is about responsibility and duty, and how we choose to guide our conscience.