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Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

Written by son of rambow on Saturday, February 12, 2011

heartbreaking and heart-lifting

Girl in Translation tells the story of a mother-daughter pair who immigrated to Brooklyn from Hong Kong. The mother begins working in a sweatshop run and owned by her older sister. However, the older sister is far from helpful in getting the women transitioned into US life. Kimberly, the daughter, is incredibly bright. She begins school and excels, despite working long hours with her mother at the sweatshop and horrendous living conditions.

The author, Jean Kwok, is also an immigrant from Hong Kong who worked in a sweatshop as a young girl. The emotions and depictions of the lives of Kim and her mother are so spot-on, emotional, and moving, I found myself frequently wondering how much of Kim's story is pulled from Kwok's own narrative.

Kwok integrates many Chinese sayings into the novel, and I truly enjoyed them. She uses them seamlessly. My favorite was "moon tan" which translated as a stroll through the moon light.

about Jean Kwok

Jean Kwok immigrated from Hong Kong to Brooklyn when she was five and worked in a Chinatown clothing factory for much of her childhood. She won early admission to Harvard, where she worked as many as four jobs at a time, and graduated with honors in English and American literature, before going on to earn an MFA in fiction at Columbia. Her debut novel GIRL IN TRANSLATION (Riverhead, 2010) is a NYT bestseller and published in 15 countries. It was chosen as the winner of an American Library Association's Alex Award, a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers title, an Indie Next Pick, the winner of Best Cultural Book in BBAW 2010, one of The Guardian's Choice of First Novels, a nominee for QPB's 2010 New Voices Award, one of Woman & Home's Top 30 Books of 2010, one of China Daily's Top 10 Books of 2010, one of the Best of 2010 at, one of top 10 favorites by Flavorwire and a Blue Ribbon Pick. Jean's work has been published in the Daily News, The Mail on Sunday, Story, Prairie Schooner, NuyorAsian Anthology and Elements of Literature. She lives in the Netherlands with her husband and two sons.

For the very latest news, check out Jean Kwok's Facebook fan page:

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