When Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to Brooklyn squalor, she quickly begins a secret double life: exceptional schoolgirl during the day, Chinatown sweatshop worker in the evenings. Disguising the more difficult truths of her life-like the staggering degree of her poverty, the weight of her family’s future resting on her shoulders, or her secret love for a factory boy who shares none of her talent or ambition-Kimberly learns to constantly translate not just her language but herself back and forth between the worlds she straddles. Through Kimberly’s story, author Jean Kwok, who also emigrated from Hong Kong as a young girl, brings to the page the lives of countless immigrants who are caught between the pressure to succeed in America, their duty to their family, and their own personal desires, exposing a world that we rarely hear about.
Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok is a brilliant coming of age story. As an immigrant myself, I could relate to a lot of the issues Kimberly faced. I didn’t have as hard a time as Kimberly but I have heard my father saying some of the things mentioned in the book. He was an immigrant in the 60’s when the situation was much worse than it is now. All of the dreams and aspirations that a person has when they migrate to any country is told so beautifully in the book. The only reason a person would leave their home country is for a better future. But not everyone gets their dream fulfilled.
There are many books which speak about immigrants to the US but this book stands out due to its painful realism. The road to a better future is not always smooth. There will be bumps, twists and turns. The other thing that caught my attention is Kimberly’s love for Matt. Even though Curt fancies her a lot and he is rich, she cannot help who she loves. Finally, she also realizes that she and Matt do not dream of the same future and that even though they love each other they will not be happy together. But I do think that Matt deserved the truth at the end. I can understand why Kim would keep the truth from Matt but he has the right to know.
A definite 5⭐ read for me.