Monday, 10 September 2012

"Girl in Translation" by Jean Kwok

When I'm in Hodges & Figgis on Dawson St., I usually find myself wandering down to the bargain basement. I will then stay there for as long as possible before one of my friends feels the need to grab me by the arm and drag me out. Often, while scanning the endless shelves, I come across a gem of a book that I can't leave the store without. Jean Kwok's debut novel "Girl in Translation" was one such book.

The novel follows the life of Kimberly Chang, a young girl who has emigrated with her mother from Hong Kong to New York, hopeful of a better life. They speak no English and are in debt. The two must live in an old apartment and work in a Chinatown sweatshop to earn money. Kimberly is very gifted and later discovers that her aptitude for school may give her the chance of escaping the poverty in which both her and her mother live. She begins to live a double life: exceptional student by day, sweatshop worker by night. Kimberly is careful to disguise the truth of her poverty from the other children at her school - which becomes challenging when she forms a close friendship with the theatrical Annette.

The novel explores how Kimberly learns to translate herself between her two worlds, and how to cope with everyday struggles and heartbreak. It is an irresistible story which captures the reader from the very first page, and lingers with them after the last.

Published April 29th 2010 by Riverhead
ISBN: 1594487561
304 pages