Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

Publishers send loads of review copies to libraries, and I was recently shown the area where these are kept in our collection management department.  I feel like I have the keys to the candy store.  The first book I picked up was Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, which will be released on April 29, 2010.

After her father’s death, Ah-Kim Chang and her mother immigrate to New York, where her Aunt Pearl has a job and a home lined up for them.  They are surprised to learn that the apartment they will be living in is a roach-infested hellhole, and her mother’s job is nearly slave labor at the clothing factory run by her aunt’s husband.  Kimberly (Ah-Kim’s name in America) and her mother have to learn to fend for themselves.

Ah-Kim is used to being at the top of her class back in Hong Kong, but she struggles at her public school in New York due to the language barrier and a horrible teacher. Luckily, an administrator sees that she is intelligent and helps her find a good school to attend the next year. 

Kwok was an immigrant herself, and this shows in the authenticity of the story.  I was riveted reading about how Ah-Kim balances life with friends at an expensive private school with her home life of abject poverty.  She must work hard with the weight of her mother’s salvation on her shoulders.

I sped through this book in two days because I couldn’t put it down.  Make sure to check this one out in April.


5 thoughts on “Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

  1. Loved this book–although it made me very sad thinking of the struggles that Kim had. What would it be like for kids who aren’t brilliant?

    I hope everyone reads this book; it’s so fantastic.

    • It surprised me at how modern this book was. It wasn’t that long ago that life would have been like this for an immigrant (and it is still that way I’m sure). I don’t think she ever says what year it is, but it seemed like it was not that long ago.

  2. This book sounds really good!

    The newspaper gets lots of advance copies, too. We have a book sale ($2-$3 for brand-new hardcover novels!!) that benefits the paper’s charity a few times a year. It’s awesome.

  3. It’s in the 1970s, right? Isn’t there some sort of throwaway line about Nixon or Watergate or something?

    Did I totally hallucinate that? It’s possible. 🙂

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