Girl In Translation

Images My friend recommended I read the debut book, Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok.  I started reading it Sunday evening and decided I was moving along at such a rapid pace that I'd just finish it off….and so I did. 

Well written coming of age story.  An 8 year old girl, Kimberly, leaves Hong Kong with her mother when Hong Kong becomes ruled by China.  They are able to get to the states because of the mother's sister.  Her husband has died and she knows that to create a life for her daughter, they need to emigrate.  They move to NYC and the sister puts her and the mother in a condemned building infested with roaches, rats and mice…not people.  

The story is told through the eyes of the daughter.  Kimberly, who is smart as a whip, finds herself helping her mother every day after school in the manufacturing plant in Chinatown steaming pants or hanging skirts.  The plant is owned by her aunt.  The story revolves around Kimberly navigating a new country and how she is going to get to the top, to get out of debt, to live like a real person (not among rats, bugs and having heat) and create something for herself and her mother.  Yet as she grows up, she finds herself disconnected from the kids she goes to school with who would be aghast at how poor Kimberly is while she lives a double life working in the evenings after school at the factory.  On the other hand, she isn't truly connected to the kids in the manufacturing company who don't have the same goals and smarts that she does. 

Reading about a  young girl coming of age in America and the difficulties of being poor, alone, and parents from a different culture while trying to find yourself and reach your dreams is an interesting slice of life that we rarely get to read about.  A really good debut novel.