Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
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.
I love this book. Everything about it rings true. Kwok tells harsh truths with a gentle voice; at first with the innocence of a child and then with the careful acceptance of an adult. Stereotypes and stigmas surrounding immigrants and their hardships are scrubbed away to reveal real people.
Each character was colorful and interesting, and Kimberly herself was fully realized. I feel like I could run into her on the street. I especially loved that the romance doesn’t take anything away from Kim. Its purpose wasn’t to fix her, change her, or take away from her ambition, and it was done perfectly.
The plot was a little slow in places, but they were few and far between. Everything else was so well done and captivating, I didn’t mind. I loved this book from beginning to end and I highly recommend it.
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