Monday, 13 July 2015

"Girl in Translation" by Jean Kwok

   Wow!  I loved this book!  A great summer read!
   Kimberley Chang and her mother immigrated from Hong Kong to Brooklyn and lived in a very run-down building with no heat, but lots of bugs and rats.   Kim worked hard to learn the language but her mother was never able to conquer it.
   Kim tried to keep up her school work while helping her mother complete her quota of work in the garment factory.  What a struggle!
   Quote: "There's a Chinese saying that the fates are winds that blow through our lives from every angle, urging us along the paths of time.  Those who are strong-willed may fight the storm and possibly choose their own road, while the weak must go where they are blown."
   Well, Kim certainly was not going to be blown by the winds of fate.  She fought the storm, but found herself in a big dilemma as a teenager.  She was in love with a 'factory boy' whose ambition was to raise a family in Chinatown.  Kim had been accepted to Yale University and had a great vision for her life.  And, there was a socially- acceptable young man just waiting for Kim to marry him.  Who will she choose?
   Close to the end of the novel, you are left with her dilemma.  I actually was anxious about finishing the book.  I didn't know what she would choose.  The last 10 pages pick up her life 12 years later, and there is a surprise- and a lot of emotion!
   I had a little concern over the language.  The author interspersed bits of the Brooklyn accent, trying to show how difficult it was for Kim to not only learn English, but to also understand the Brooklyn accent. A little awkward.  But..
Great characters!  Great plot!  Great setting!  Great cover!  Loved it!
Jean Kwok is the author and I discovered that much of the story is autobiographical.  She immigrated at 5 and experienced the poor housing and the horrible conditions of the garment factory.
She became a teacher and an author, living now in the Netherlands.
She has written another book: "Mambo in Chinatown".

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